DC Drug Lawyer

When faced with a charge of being in violation of Washington, DC’s stringent drug laws, you may initially believe you will get nothing more than a slap on the wrist. The reality is that DC drug charges are sometimes pursued as aggressively by prosecutors as far more inherently violent crimes. By working with a Washington, DC drug lawyer, you can take steps to protect yourself and build a strong defense.

The war on drugs this country has waged has served to incarcerate millions for what many would argue is a public health issue, rather than a criminal matter. Nonetheless, District law enforcement and prosecutors are known to pursue such cases with vigor and the full weight of their resources. Whether you are faced with a charge of drug possession, or more serious allegations of distribution or manufacturing, working with a dedicated criminal defense attorney can help mitigate the potential ramifications of such charges.

Possessing a controlled substance, with the exception of possessing two ounces or less of marijuana, carries a potential 180-day jail sentence and/or a $1,000 fine. However, variations in the facts of your case, such as the amount and type of drug, can elevate that charge to possession with intent to distribute, which carries up to 30 years in prison and/or $75,000 in fines. Therefore, it is important for defendants to obtain the services of a DC drug lawyer as soon as possible.

Defining Drug Possession

Whether a person had the drugs in their pocket or even on the seat next to them, they could be charged with possessing the drugs. Under DC law, possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means the substance is in the physical custody of the person charged with possession, such as in the person’s hand or pockets.

Constructive possession means that although the person may not have had the substance physically in their possession, they had the intent and power to control the substance —perhaps within reach or found in an area accessible to the individual.

After reviewing the facts of an individual’s case, a person’s DC drug lawyer can inform them about how one or both of these different types of possession might apply to their legal defense.

What Constitutes a Controlled Substance in DC?

Controlled substances are defined in Section 48-901.02(4) as a drug or substance that falls within Schedule I through V of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Schedule I controlled substances are the most strictly regulated because they are deemed the most dangerous and have a high potential for abuse. Conversely, Schedule V controlled substances are the least regulated because of a low potential for abuse and injury. In the District of Columbia, drug offenses are generally broken down into different levels of prohibited acts, which are divided into one of four categories listed alphabetically.

Based on the type of substance an individual is accused of possessing, manufacturing, or selling, the penalties associated with a conviction can vary.  It is important to speak with a DC drug lawyer as soon as possible so that a person can get a realistic understanding of all the potential outcomes of their case and work to achieve the most favorable legal outcome possible under the circumstances.

Manufacturing and Distributing Drugs

Prohibited Acts A are defined by Section 48-904.01 and include several different criminal offenses, the most serious of which focus on the manufacture and distribution of certain narcotics. See Section 48-904.01(a)-(b). This provision, however, also includes less serious crimes, such as mere possession of a controlled substance. §48-904.03a of the Washington, DC code makes it illegal for any person to open or maintain any place to manufacture, distribute, or store a narcotic or abusive drug for the purpose of manufacture or distribution.

Manufacture, distribution, and possession with the intent to manufacture or distribute drugs are defined by DC Code Section 48-901.01(a). In lay terms, the code states that it is illegal for anyone to knowingly create, make, or sell controlled substances as previously defined. It is also illegal for anyone to possess controlled substances for the purpose of making or selling drugs. An individual can be found guilty of possessing controlled substances for the purposes of selling narcotics, or manufacturing more drugs, even if the transaction or actual manufacturing process did not occur.

What are the Penalties for Manufacturing and Distribution?

DC Drug LawyerAs noted earlier, those convicted of manufacturing, distributing or possessing with the intent to make or sell a Schedule I or II controlled substance will face up to 30 years in prison and/or up to $75,000 in fines. Examples of drugs that fall within the Schedule I and II classifications include, but are not limited to, PCHP, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine, and some opiates, such as oxycodone.

Those found guilty of manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with the intent to distribute or sell Schedule I, II, or III substances that are not “abusive drugs” face up to five years in prison and/or up to $12,500 in fines. If, however, the substance is half a pound or less of marijuana, and the accused has no prior drug offenses, they would face up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 180 days in jail.

New Rules Regarding Marijuana Possession

As of February 26, 2015, the District of Columbia legalized small amounts of marijuana that may be used for personal consumption on private property under a law known as Initiative 71. Initiative 71 specifies that individuals who are at least 21 years old may possess up to two ounces of marijuana as well as paraphernalia that is associated with personal use legally.  For those under the age of 21, it still remains an illegal substance, like alcohol. An individual must be able to prove their age to avoid being cited if requested to do so by local police.

If a person has any questions about how the law has changed, or how these changes may affect them or their case, they should contact a Washington DC drug attorney.

Evidence Used in DC Drug Cases

The success of a DC drug case hinges on the evidence presented by the prosecution. How that evidence was found and seized can play a major role in their case. A Washington DC drug lawyer will investigate the manner in which evidence was collected and the accuracy of drug test results, as well as question the admissibility and sufficiency of the government’s evidence to ensure their constitutional rights were not violated. The court process is complex and lengthy. If a person wants to understand the legal aspects of their case and all of the options available to them, the should reach out to a Washington DC drug attorney for a free consultation.

Contacting a DC Drug Attorney

As soon as you believe that you might be under investigation for either a drug charge or any kind of criminal offense, you should immediately begin speaking with a Washington DC drug lawyer so that you can understand what your rights are, what might happen to you later on, and you can get advice on actions that can put you in the best possible position later on.

You never want to be in the position in which waiting to get representation results in evidence being lost, witnesses forgetting the sequence of events that they may have seen, or challenges to certain prosecution or police tactics are not addressed in the very beginning of the case.

If you believe that you are being investigated or believe that you might be investigated for a drug offense, then you need to speak with an attorney to understand their rights when communicating with police officers and their rights to decline to answer questions or to consent to any searches. If you have already been arrested and charged with a drug offense, then contacting a criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss representation can help you begin an investigation to preserve any possible evidence or witnesses so that no evidence is lost.

Summer Fletcher’s 5K & 10K

Attorney Peter Odom is grateful to have been a sponsor of the Summer Fletcher’s 5K & 10K race at Fletcher’s Boathouse on  August 10, 2019. Proceeds from the race go directly to Operation Turbo, a local nonprofit that sends “Boxes of Home” to US Military members abroad. To learn more, visit our Summer Fletcher’s Race page.