If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you are charged with possession of an illegal substance, first and foremost, obtain legal counsel with an attorney who is experienced in handling drug possession cases.
The penalties, if you are convicted of possessing an illegal substance, vary depending on the type of drug, amount in your possession and if you have been previously convicted of a drug charge. Most states have minimum mandatory guidelines for sentencing based upon the above criteria.
If you were charged with possession, the sentence is usually the most lenient. Penalties can range from a small fine, sometimes less than $100, and perhaps a few days in jail, to a fine that can be in the thousands of dollars and come with several years in prison. Sometimes if you agree to cooperate with the prosecutor and provide them with information that can help them with an investigation leading to the capture of a bigger player in the drug, you may be offered a lesser penalty.
The state you live in will determine the mandatory minimum sentencing that is given for first time drug offenders. Kentucky has some of the toughest penalties for first-time drug offenders. A conviction in Kentucky may get you from 2 to 10 years in prison along with a large fine that can be up to $20,000. Contract that with California, where fines can be from $30 to $500 and/or a jail sentence that ranges from 15 to 180 days. Maryland takes a tough stance on drug offenses, and a criminal defense lawyer Baltimore, MD trusts can help navigate this process. The lawyer must understand the Maryland sentencing guidelines which apply to criminal cases prosecuted in a Circuit Court. While the sentencing guidelines are voluntary and may not be construed to require a court to sentence a defendant as prescribed by the guidelines, you must ensure the state is accurate in how they compute those guidelines.
Elements that may affect the Penalties for Drug Possession
- Type and quantity of drug
- Any past record of the defendant
- Possession or sale near a school — In most states the penalty for getting caught within 1000 feet of a school is double the normal sentence. This is called an aggravating factor
- Whether the state believes the defendant intended to distribute the drug
Another factor that may influence the sentence is if someone is charged of being an assistant in a drug distribution ring.
There are several states that operate what are called ‘drug courts’. In Maryland, drug treatment courts are specialized court dockets that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems. These courts are typically managed by a judge and try to rehabilitate the defendant, who is usually a repeat offender, without taking the case to trial. Judges have a considerable amount of control over these courts. If the defendant is in agreement to attending drug court, they will usually be involved in 12 to 15 months of treatment sessions. In addition, they will be subjected to random drug testing and will frequently have to appear before the judge. If the defendant fails to comply with the rules or fails drug tests, they are usually arrested and sentenced to a short time in jail.
To understand the laws and penalties for drug possession charges in your state, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the particulars of your situation. If this is your first offense, you may be allowed to attend a drug treatment program instead of the other penalties. Your attorney will be able to advise you as to how to proceed.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Greenberg Law Offices for their insight into drug possession cases.