DC Drug Possession with Intent to Distribute Charges

It is possible for a charge to be increased from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute, which would result in serious penalties in DC. Typically, when a prosecutor believes there is evidence of a higher level charge such as possession with intent to distribute, they begin with that charge because the evidence probably exists from the beginning of the case. It is not as common for additional evidence of intent to distribute to come up after a person is arrested; although it is not unheard of and it is not impossible. It is more common, however, when prosecutors believe there is evidence of intent to distribute, they start with that charge and may decrease the charge from there rather than starting with a lower charge and increasing the charge. Because of this, it is important to have a skilled drug possession lawyer to defend you in court, so they can help get that charges reduced.

Prosecution in Cases

In possession with intent to distribute cases in DC, the prosecutors must prove that a person was in possession of a controlled substance and at the time they were in possession of the controlled substance, their intent was to distribute it to another person or people. To prove possession of the controlled substance, the prosecutors must prove the person was in actual possession or in constructive possession of the substance. Actual possession means the prosecutors can prove the person had a controlled substance on them. The controlled substance was in their pocket, in their hand, or otherwise on their person.

Constructive Possession

The alternative possibility is that the prosecutors can prove a person had constructive possession of a controlled substance. Constructive possession means the person knew of the whereabouts of the controlled substance and had the ability and intent to exercise dominion and control over that substance. That means the person had the ability and the intention of guiding the outcome of the controlled substance. Even if the substance was not on their person at the time, the circumstances of where the substance was located and proof of the intention of the person show that for constructive purposes the person possessed that substance.

Illegal Possession

The prosecutors must also prove that it was illegal for the person to possess that substance. That can be evidence that the substance is inherently illegal because there is no circumstance in which possession of the substance is legal. Those substances include heroin, PCP, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illegal substances. The prosecutors can also prove that the substance was a synthetic controlled substance or other kinds of controlled substance that could be legally possessed with a valid prescription. However, the prosecutors have proof that no such prescription validly existed for the person at the time of the possession.

Common Penalties

For the most part, simple possession of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor and carries up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. The only exception is the possession of liquid PCP. The DC legislature and prosecutors consider liquid PCP to be a more serious type of drug. Rarely do people possess liquid PCP without the intention of distributing the substance. The authorities permit felony-level charges for the possession of liquid PCP even when there are no accompanying factors that show the intent to distribute.

A person charged with possession of liquid PCP charge faces up to three years of prison time and fines up to $12,500. That is the only felony level simple possession drug charge. However, charges of possessing with the intent to distribute a controlled substance in DC can carry much more serious penalties. Being charged with possession with intent to distribute more serious Schedule I or narcotic drugs such as heroin, cocaine, PCP, or methamphetamine carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years of prison time and fines up to $75,000. Possession with intent to distribute less severe drugs such as the non-narcotic or non-abusive drugs carries a maximum penalty up to five years of prison time and up to $12,500.

Part of this level offense is possession with intent to distribute more than half a pound of marijuana. When a person is charged with possession with intent to distribute less than half of pound of marijuana they face a misdemeanor charge, up to 180 days in jail, and up to $1,000 in fines.

Benefits of an Attorney

There are many complexities associated with DC drug possession with intent to distribute charges specific to constitutional issues and investigatory issues. Someone with no legal training would not know how to address these issues and properly explain them before a criminal court so that they could be properly litigated to the person’s advantage. A drug possession with intent to distribute lawyer with a great deal of experience handling these kinds of cases would know how to identify and address these issues.