PITTSBURGH DRUG POSSESSION LAWYER

 

HOW IS POSSESSION OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE DEFINED IN PENNSYLVANIA?

Section 780-113(a)(16) penalizes the crime of possessing a controlled substance or counterfeit substance by a person not otherwise authorized by law to do so, or by a person who doesn’t have a valid prescription.

The prosecution must prove that possession of the substance was either knowing or intentional.  Contrary to popular belief, however, the prosecution doesn’t need to prove that the accused actually possessed the substance.  In fact, a lot of drug-possession prosecutions are prosecuted on the legal theory of what is known as constructive possession, which generally arises in a context where two or more persons are in a place to have equal access to a prohibited substance.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has described he concept of constructive possession this way:

Constructive possession is a legal fiction, a pragmatic construct to deal with the realities of criminal law enforcement. Constructive possession is an inference arising from a set of facts that possession of the contraband was more likely than not. We have defined constructive possession as a “conscious dominion.” We subsequently defined “conscious dominion” as “the power to control the contraband and the intent to exercise that control.”

 

HOW SERIOUS IS POSSESSION OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE?

A conviction for possession of a controlled substance is an ungraded misdemeanor; however, the maximum fines and terms of imprisonment differ depending on if the person to be sentenced had any prior convictions under Section 780-113 that have “become final.”

For a first-time offender, the maximum possible term of imprisonment is one year and/or a maximum fine of $5,000.

For a repeated offender, the maximum possible term of imprisonment is three years and/or a maximum fine of $25,000.

 

CAN POSSESSION OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE CHARGE BE RESOLVED PRE-TRIAL?

Yes, sometimes it can be.  Within the The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, there is a pre-trial diversion program called Probation Without Verdict” (PWOV) that’s available to drug-dependent offenders who commit non-violent offenses.

The benefit of PWOV is that those who fulfill the terms and conditions of a probationary sentence, upon completion, the court dismisses the charges that the person pled to and their record of conviction is to be “promptly expunged” under Section 780-119. 

These are person, however, who are ineligible for PWOV:

  1. Any person who has previously been convicted of an offense under this act or similar act of the United States or any other state.
  1. Any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in this Commonwealth or an equivalent crime under the laws of any other state.
  1. Any person who has been placed on Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition where the person was charged with a violation of this act or the commission of a misdemeanor or felony in this Commonwealth.
  1. Any person who is charged with or has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to multiple offenses which are based on separate conduct or arise from separate criminal episodes such that those offenses could be tried separately in accordance with 18 Pa.C.S. § 110 (relating to when prosecution barred by former prosecution for different offense).
  1. Any person who is a dangerous juvenile offender under 42 Pa.C.S. § 6302 (relating to definitions) or who was adjudicated delinquent for conduct which would constitute a violation of clause (30) or (37) of subsection (a) of section 13 of this act.1
  1. Any person who is charged with violating clause (14), (30) or (37) of subsection (a) of section 13 of this act.

 

WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS?

A prosecution for possession of a controlled substance must be commenced within two years after it is committed.

 

If you or a loved one is charged with drug possession, call Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, Ryan H. James, who has tried and argued these cases with successful results.  Attorney James can be personally reached at 412-977-1827, or by e-mail at ryan@rhjameslaw.com