Robert Andrews, Kim Riester
Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorneys

Drugs

Possession and Possession with Intent to Deliver

Drugs Generally

The lawyers in the Criminal Division are well versed in the law of controlled substances.  Whether it's the possession of a small amount of marijuana or the large scale trafficking of Schedule I narcotics, the attorneys at Meyer Darragh have the experience to protect your rights.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania treats the possession of illegal drugs for personal use much differently than it treats the possession of illegal drugs with the intent to distribute them.  Where the focus on mere possession is often times rehabilitation, the focus on felony intent to deliver is punishment, which can mean lengthy periods of incarceration. 

 


Simple Possession

Whether it's cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, or a small amount of marijuana, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania takes the illegal possession of such drugs seriously.  Statutorily, drugs are divided into five different categories, or schedules:

  1. Schedule I Drugs
    Are those that have the following characteristic according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency: The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse;  The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S.; There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision; and No prescriptions may be written for Schedule I substances, and they are not readily available for clinical use.

    NOTE: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, marijuana) is still considered a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA, even though some U.S. states have legalized marijuana for personal, recreational use or for medical use.

    **Marijuana is illegal in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania**

  2. Schedule II Drugs
    The drug has a high potential for abuse. The drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or a currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions. Abuse of the drug may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

  3. Schedule III Drugs
    The drug has a potential for abuse less than the drugs in schedules I and II. The drug has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. Abuse of the drug may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

  4. Schedule IV Drugs
    The drug has a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III; currently accepted medical use in the United States; and limited physical or psychological dependence liability relative to the substances listed in Schedule III.

  5. Schedule V Drugs
    The drug has a low potential for abuse relative to the substances listed in Schedule IV; currently accepted medical use in the United States; and limited physical dependence or psychological dependence liability relative to the substances listed in Schedule IV.

If convicted of simple possession, a court has the ability to impose a 3 year period of imprisonment.  However, if it is a first offense, there may be other non-conviction alternatives available. 


Possession With Intent to Deliver

Possession With Intent to Deliver (PWID) is always graded as a Felony.  Law enforcement goes to great lengths to apprehend and prosecute those who distribute illegal drugs.  It should be noted that in the eyes of law enforcement, sharing a prescription with a friend is just as serious as dealing heroin.  At the state level, sentences for PWID can be as long as 15 years.

With the growing heroin epidemic and the resulting deaths resulting from overdose, District Attorney Offices in Western Pennsylvania have begun to charge the provider of the illegal drug with Delivery Resulting in Death (18 Pa.C.S.A. 2506), a Felony of the First Degree, punishable by a maximum of 20 years.