In Pennsylvania, drug trafficking -- or "possession with intent to distribute" -- is typically considered a felony even if the accused is a first-time offender. It is vital for those facing this charge to understand the elements of the crime, the possible penalties if convicted and their potential legal defenses.
In order for an accused to be convicted of drug trafficking in Pennsylvania, it must be proven that they were in possession of an illegal controlled substance and that they had the intent to deliver it to another person in the state. Actual possession is proven when the controlled substance is found on the defendant. If the controlled substance was not on the defendant's person, constructive possession will need to be proven by showing that the defendant had the power and intent to exercise control over the controlled substance.
Intent to deliver is proven by first showing that the defendant grew, manufactured or obtained the controlled substance. It must then be shown that they delivered, or intended to deliver, the controlled substance to another person in the state. When a defendant is in possession of a large amount of a controlled substance, it is generally assumed that the controlled substance was not for personal use but rather for the purpose of distribution.
Conviction of this crime can result in varying penalties depending on the type and quantity of controlled substance. For example, if the type of controlled substance is marijuana and the amount is less than ten pounds, penalties upon conviction may be one year in prison and a fine of $5,000. However, if the controlled substance is heroin, conviction may result in a prison sentence of up to fifteen years and a fine of up to $250,000.
It is imperative to keep in mind that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecution bears the burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Those accused of possession with intent to deliver have several possible legal defenses available and they will be discussed in a future post.