The phrase “tough on crime” means different things in different parts of the world.
For example: In the United States, the federal sentence for most first offense drug possession charges is less than a year in jail.
Get caught with two grams of heroin in Malaysia, and you’ll face up to five years in prison and as many as nine lashes with a whip.
That isn’t to say that drug crimes here in the U.S. should be taken lightly. Ask any Bucks County drug possession defense lawyer, and they’ll tell you that getting caught with an illegal substance can have serious consequences.
In this blog post, we’re going to look at the difference between Pennsylvania’s drug laws and federal narcotic statutes.
Federal drug charges
Federal drug possession charges vary depending on the substance involved and whether you’ve been convicted before.
For simple possession (a charge that applies to most drugs):
- First offense –A maximum one-year prison term and minimum $1,000 fine.
- Second offense — Up to two years in prison and a $2,500 fine
- Third offense and up – 90 days to three years in prison, $5,000 fine
There was a time where crack cocaine was an exception to this rule, with crack possession carrying a penalty of five years in prison for first time offenders. But the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act lifted this sentencing rule.
There’s also an exception for Flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol, commonly used as a date rape drug. Possession of this substance carries a three-year maximum prison sentence for first time offenders and all subsequent offenses.
The federal penalties for possession of larger amounts of most drugs – in other words, drug trafficking – are felony charges, and are much more severe.
Depending on the quantities and drugs involved, defendants face anywhere from five to 40 years in prison, and could end up serving a life sentence for a drug sale that results in death or serious injury. Defendants with two or more prior offenses could face life in prison.
Pennsylvania drug charges
As Bucks County drug possession defense lawyers, we know that Pennsylvania has some of the nation’s toughest drug laws.
Again, penalties can depend on the quantity and variety of drugs involved, and other factors such as whether the drugs were distributed in a school zone, or whether there was a weapon present during the time of the arrest.
For simple drug possession in Pennsylvania:
- First offense – Up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000
- All subsequent offenses – Up to three years in jail, a maximum fine of $25,000
- Possession of a small amount of marijuana – Up to 30 days in jail, maximum fine of $500
- Possession of drug paraphernalia – Up to one year in jail, maximum fine of $2,500
Beyond these punishments, a drug related conviction can cost you your driver’s license, keep you from owning a firearm, and make it difficult to find employment or get car insurance.
As with federal drug charges, the penalties for selling drugs – “possession with intent to deliver” are much more severe:
- Selling two to 10 grams of narcotics – Two years in prison, maximum fine of $5,000 for the first offense. Three years in prison, maximum fine of $10,000 for subsequent offenses
- Selling 10 to 100 grams of narcotics – Three years in prison, maximum fine of $15,000 for the first offense. Five years in prison, maximum fine of $30,000 for subsequent offenses
- Selling 100 or more grams of narcotics – Five years in prison, maximum fine of $25,000 for the first offense. Seven years in prison, maximum fine of $50,000 for subsequent offenses
Whether you’ve been pulled over with a small amount of marijuana, or arrested on more serious narcotics charges, you need a qualified Bucks County drug possession defense lawyer by your side.
The team at Penglase & Bensons is made up of former prosecutors who have earned a reputation for trustworthiness among the region’s judges, police officers and district attorneys.
They understand that we will work professionally to mount the best defense for our clients, drawing on more than 65 combined years of legal expertise to bring you the best possible outcome.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment, and we’ll get started on crafting your defense.