What Is the Difference Between Possession and Possession With Intent to Distribute?
Simple Possession is possession of the drug for personal use. If someone has a small amount of marijuana in her/his pocket and there’s no indication that they’re trying to sell or deliver that marijuana to anybody, they’ll be charged with simple possession. Possession with Intent to distribute means exactly how it sounds: The drugs are possessed not simply for personal use, but rather to sell or deliver the drugs.
A person can be charged with intent to distribute based on a few things. Someone could be caught in the actual act of making a direct sale. Meaning they’re observed actually handing the drug to somebody else, usually in exchange for money. A person can also be charged with Possession With Intent to Deliver based on the amount of drugs in his/her possession, and the indication that those drugs were for sale rather than for use. For example, If a defendant is caught in possession of several pounds of marijuana, a scale, baggies, and a large amount of cash, law enforcement will determine that the defendant wasn’t simply possessing the drugs to use them personally, but was possessing them with the intent to deliver. The intent to deliver can be inferred from the circumstances. Large amounts of drug, along with a scale, a large amount of cash, and baggies for repackaging could lead to a charge of intent to distribute, even though the defendant was not actually caught in an act of distributing.
Can Police Execute the Search of an Automobile or a Home Without a Warrant If There’s Suspicion or Probable Cause of Drugs Being on the Premises or Inside a Vehicle?
In Pennsylvania, as well as a number of other states, law enforcement does have the right to search your car simply by fulfilling the requirements of probable cause, without having to obtain a warrant signed by a judge. This law was solidified, in Pennsylvania, by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in case of Commonwealth v. Gary, is known as the “automobile exception,” and is also applicable at the federal level. The automobile exception essentially gives police or law enforcement in Pennsylvania the right to decide for themselves if they have probable cause to search your car.
A search of ones home will usually require a warrant, however, there are several exceptions to the warrant requirement that will allow law enforcement to search ones home, without a warrant being issued. A few common exceptions to the warrant requirement are as follows:
1.) Consent – If the police ask you for permission to search your home, and you knowingly and intelligently grant them permission do so, you have consented (granted permission) and a search and a warrant is not required. Consent is the most common exception to warrant requirement, it applies to homes, cars, your person and other personal property. It is important to know that you do never have to agree to a search, and frankly speaking, you never should.
2.) Plain view / Plain sight: Police in Pennsylvania can enter your home without a warrant if they can see evidence of criminal activity in plain view, from a place where the officer is legally allowed to be. For example, if a cop knocks on the door, someone opens the door and the police see needles, burnt spoons and empty bags of heroin on the dining room table, the police can then enter the home to seize the drugs and search for other evidence of related criminal activity. This can be done without a warrant.
3.) Exigent Circumstances / Emergency – This exception allows law enforcement officers to conduct a search or enter premises without a warrant in situations where there is an emergency. The emergency could be where lives are in danger, evidence is in danger of being destroyed or a suspect could potentially escape.
4.) Searches Incident to Arrest – If a law enforcement officer is conducting a lawful arrest, a search of the person and the area around the person can be conducted without a search warrant.
As a Passenger in a Motor Vehicle or a Place Where Drugs Are Found, Could I Also Receive a Drug-Related Charge?
Yes, there are two types of possession, actual possession and constructive possession. Actual possession means the drugs are located directly on your person, e.g. in your pocket. Therefore, there is no doubt that you are in possession of the drugs. Constructive possession is a legal fiction, created to deal with the realities of criminal law enforcement. Constructive possession is defined as conscious dominion, meaning that the defendant has the power to control the contraband and the intent to exercise that control.” Id. Constructive possession is established by circumstantial evidence.
If you’re a passenger in a car that has been pulled over and drugs were found in the car, you could be charged with possession of those drugs, even though they were not found directly on your person. This is because the drugs may be said to be in an area where you could access them, and you had the ability to exercise dominion and control over them.
For more information on Drug Charges in Pennsylvania, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (215) 795-5940 today.
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