No matter the circumstances, facing charges for possessing illicit substances can be intimidating and overwhelming. However, if charges are elevated to include the intent to distribute, the penalties may be even more severe.
Because of this, if you were charged with drug possession, you may benefit from reaching out to a DC drug possession with intent to distribute lawyer to discuss your legal options. A knowledgeable attorney could help to explain your rights and determine the severity of the charges you face.
A charging decision is made at the outset of a case. Usually, when a charge comes into the system, it is through an arrest. After an arrest, a papering—also known as an initial charging—decision is made by a team of prosecutors within the United States Attorney’s Office. Here, they meet with the arresting officer and identify the type of charge to pursue.
Sometimes, a charge that initially comes in as possession with the intent to distribute is later reduced to a simple possession charge—depending on a variety of factors. On the other hand, it is unusual for a simple charge of possession to be upgraded to involve intent to distribute.
Possession with intent to distribute combines multiple legal concepts. The first is possession—which is defined as having the power, knowledge, and ability to control the drug at issue. As an example, two people are in a car and there are drugs underneath the driver’s seat. The passenger does not know the drugs are there, therefore they do not have the knowledge necessary to possess those drugs. Similarly, if the drugs are in the driver’s pocket, for example, and the passenger knows they are there, that does not mean the passenger has the ability to control the drugs. Even if the passenger knows the drugs are there, however, that does not mean they possess the drugs in someone else’s pocket.
Then, there is the question of intent to distribute. Essentially, the government must prove—beyond a reasonable doubt—that someone possessed drugs with the intent to distribute them. Usually, it must be shown that an individual affirmatively intended to sell or give drugs to other people. This is often attempted to be proven through evidence that may indicate itent—such as the amount of drugs on a person, whether money was found, or if the presence of a scale, packaging material, or substances used to dilute a drug for distribution were found.
At a jury trial, the jury is responsible for determining whether or not someone is guilty of the charge and whether the person had the substance for personal use or with the intent to distribute.
There are two types of possession: actual possession—where a person physically has a substance, such as in their pocket—and constructive possession, which involves the alleged knowledge or control of something.
In cases involving drugs, this means that a person does not have to have physical or actual possession of a substance in order to still have constructive possession. For example, if a search of an apartment is conducted by law enforcement and drugs are found inside a locked safe, the question becomes about who has knowledge and control of these substances.
Under DC law, possession is a misdemeanor charge and, therefore, carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Additionally, first-time offenders with a possession charge on their record might later have that conviction erased under certain circumstances.
Possession with intent to distribute, however, may be a felony—depending on the drug in question. For certain substances, such as cocaine or heroin, the maximum sentence of imprisonment is 30 years. In other circumstances, such as intent to distribute marijuana, are only charged as a misdemeanor.
Furthermore, under the DC Voluntary Sentencing Guidelines, a series of advisory sentences are prescribed for a specific first-time offense. For example, a first-time charge for possession with intent to distribute cocaine would likely leave the defendant eligible for probation. However, this would be doubtful for a second conviction. Because of these nuances, a person facing charges may benefit from the counsel of a seasoned lawyer.
DC has a drug court program for people charged with possession with intent to distribute that addresses the underlying problem of controlled substance abuse. Furthermore, this program might provide the opportunity for an individual to have their charges reduced to a misdemeanor. However, a participant in a drug court program must follow the guidelines of the court to avoid punitive outcomes—such as prosecution and incarceration.
Facing prosecution may be frightening and overwhelming. However, no matter the circumstances of a possession charge, having a DC drug possession with intent to distribute lawyer by your side may prove essential to the proceedings.
An attorney who has the experience, skill, and work ethic could help to explain your rights, build a strong case under the circumstances, and fight to protect your rights. To discuss your situation today, call a legal professional today.
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