Common DC Drug Charges

The three most common drug offenses in the District are simple drug possession, drug distribution, and possession of a drug with the intent to distribute that drug. In most circumstances, simple drug possession charges are misdemeanor offenses. The only exception is possession of liquid PCP which is the only felony simple possession drug charge in DC. Drug distribution involves the transfer or sale of an illegal drug from one person to another. You should immediately contact an experienced drug attorney.

Prohibited Conduct in DC

Not many behaviors are covered under the DC criminal drug laws. The first and probably most common type of prohibited conduct is the possession of a controlled substance. Possession of a controlled substance is having an illegal controlled substance which can be an illegal drug such as cocaine or heroin, or a legal drug to which a person has no legal ability to possess. For example, a prescription drug in a person’s possession without a valid prescription.

The possession of these items for someone’s personal use is considered a criminal offense under DC law. Other commonly charged drug offenses include the unlawful distribution of a controlled substance and possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute it. The difference between distribution and possession with intent to distribute is that distribution requires evidence that a person provided the controlled substance to another person in exchange for money or not in exchange for money. Distribution requires the transfer of a controlled substance from the person charged to another person.

Role of Proof and Evidence

Possession with intent to distribute does not require evidence or proof that a person sold or transferred a specific controlled substance. It does require evidence that the person was in possession of a controlled substance and there is evidence that the person at the time of possession had the intent to transfer, share, or sell the controlled substance to unspecified persons. That evidence can be based on the amount of the controlled substance the person had in their possession.

It can also be based on other circumstantial evidence, such as the manner in which the controlled substance was packaged, a significant amount of cash found on the person, or statements by the person indicating their intention to distribute the controlled substance rather than use it for their own personal consumption.

Local Intent to Distribute Offenses

Possession with intent to distribute is a drug offense where prosecutors do not necessarily present evidence that a person transferred a controlled substance from one person to another. They present evidence to show a person possessed the controlled substance not for their personal use; but with the intention of transferring it to another person. Evidence of intent to distribute could be based on a significant amount of cash found on or near the person; the manner in which the drug is packaged; or distribution paraphernalia such as empty baggies or other kinds of distribution paraphernalia found on or near the person.

Those two offenses are usually charged as felony offenses. The only exception is the possession of less than half a pound of marijuana with the intent to distribute the marijuana. That charge is a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum 180 days in jail. It is still a criminal offense even though the personal possession of marijuana is legalized in DC. Possessing with the intention of distributing marijuana is still a crime and selling marijuana is also a crime. The only exception is transferring less than one ounce of marijuana without obtaining any monetary compensation.

Drug Penalties 

The possession of nearly every kind of controlled substance for personal use is a crime. However, possession of these is treated as a misdemeanor offense. That means the unlawful possession of a controlled substance such as a prescription drug like Oxycontin or the unlawful possession of an illegal drug like cocaine carries the same maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

The only drug treated more harshly for simple possession of the drug without specific evidence of intent to distribute is the possession of liquid PCP. The reason prosecutors and the DC laws treat liquid PCP more harshly than other drugs is the presumption that if someone is going to be in possession of liquid PCP, their intention is to distribute the PCP to others.

That is why the possession of liquid PCP does not require any other evidence of intent to distribute such as a large amount of cash, certain kinds of packaging of the drug, and other paraphernalia consistent with intent to distribute. Being in possession of liquid PCP is considered a more serious offense than being in possession of other kinds of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or prescription medication. The possession of liquid PCP carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison making it the only felony drug possession charge under DC law.

Benefit of a Lawyer

Common drug charges can make your life very challenging, especially if you do not have a criminal record. In order to ensure that you have the representation you deserve, contact a Washington DC drug attorney. They will work diligently to have the charges dropped, or keep you out of jail, and reduce possible fines.