When you are facing drug charges in Northeastern Pennsylvania, life as you know it will change forever. There are countless penalties that will affect your life depending on the seriousness of your charges, including fines that are thousands of dollars and years in jail. If you have been charged with a drug-related crime or are under investigation, it is time to contact the knowledgeable Scranton drug charge lawyers at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano. We have experience handling drug cases around Northeastern Pennsylvania, not to mention an extensive knowledge of the legal system in our area. Our attorneys know what it takes to defend those facing drug charges and will defend you against accusations that could potentially ruin your life.
Drug Charges in Pennsylvania & Common Cases For Drug Charge Lawyers
Most drug charges in Pennsylvania violate either state or federal laws involving drugs that are classified as controlled substances. A controlled substance can be marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other illegal drugs. At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, the most common drug charges involving controlled substances include marijuana charges, drug DUI, drug possession, drug manufacturing, drug distribution, and drug trafficking.
However, the criminal justice system can make these charges seem confusing to those convicted. The smallest mistake in your case could cost you your freedom, along with straining your relationship with family and friends.
Classes of Drugs
In Pennsylvania, there are five classes or schedules of drugs that are illegal to possess:
- Schedule I: Includes drugs that have a high potential for abuse, like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.
- Schedule II: Includes drugs that have a high potential for abuse but have an accepted medical use, like OxyContin, methamphetamine, and methadone.
- Schedule III: Includes drugs that have a high psychological dependence or moderate physical dependence, like Vicodin, anabolic steroids, and ketamine.
- Schedule IV: Includes drugs that have an accepted medical use and limited psychological/physical dependence, like Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.
- Schedule V: Includes drugs that have a current medical use and limited psychological/physical dependence relative to Schedule IV, like Lomotil, Lyrica, and cough medicines such as Robitussin AC.
Jailtime, the amount of fines, and other penalties are determined by which class of drug led to your conviction.
Pennsylvania Opioid Drug Charges
In 2018, 65% of Pennsylvania overdose deaths were due to opioid drug usage. With opioids making nationwide headlines, states have come to create their own legislation for the highly addictive and dangerous narcotics.
Common drugs that are associated with the current opioid crisis in Pennsylvania are:
- Codeine methylbromide
Because Pennsylvania drug laws follow the federal classification system of drugs under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act in addition to state laws, you could be charged with federal and state drug crimes if found in possession, trafficking, etc.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
While all drug charges lead to extreme penalties, charges stemming from distribution and manufacturing can lead to those that are the sternest. Pennsylvania’s PWI (possession with intent to distribute) statute criminalizes the possession with the intent to distribute any of the controlled substances found in Schedule I through Schedule V.
Possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances can be proven by the different circumstances surrounding someone being found in the presence of those substances. The following evidence can prove intent to distribute:
- Guns and other weapons
- Multiple cell phones
- Packaging materials
- A large amount of cash
- A large number of drugs/narcotics
A felony charge can also occur when it’s proven that the drugs and other controlled substances were grown or manufactured.
Mistakes Can Be Made
Even though the police found illegal drugs on you, it doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted of a crime. A drug arrest needs to be lawful and merited for it to hold up in court. Did law enforcement have probable cause to search or detain you, consent to search your vehicle, or have a warrant to search your premises? These are important questions, and the answers to them will determine your fate. Mistakes that police officers commonly make in drug charge cases can include forgetting to read Miranda rights, asking questions without the presence of a lawyer or when a lawyer is requested, illegal searches, improper investigations, and entrapment. Any one of these mistakes can go a long way toward helping your case.
Potential Defenses to Drug Charges
If you have been accused of a drug charge in Pennsylvania, in addition to mistakes by law enforcement, one of the following defenses may be applicable to your case:
- Lack of knowledge or intent — You can only be convicted of possession of a controlled substance if you intentionally and knowingly were in possession of the drug. So, if you did not know the drug was present, or it was planted in your possession, you may have a defense.
- Small quantity of the drug — If the drug amount in possession is small, it is not covered by drug laws.
- The controlled substance was not yours.
- A legal reason for the controlled substance — In Pennsylvania, if you’re a licensed or registered practitioner permitted to be in possession of the controlled substance or have a doctor’s order or prescription for the substance, you cannot be charged with the crime.
Our NEPA Drug Charge Lawyers Can Help You
At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we will use all our resources to get your drug charges dismissed or reduced, along with getting evidence excluded that could affect your freedom. Our attorneys are well-versed in all aspects of the law and have resolved a wide array of drug crimes in Scranton and throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania.
If you have been convicted of a drug crime, the time to act is now and not later to contact our drug charge lawyers. If this is your first offense, there may be ways to prevent you from having a criminal record. Contact our firm today for a free consultation. We look forward to securing your justice.