Many states have legalized marijuana possession in recent years. But Pennsylvania still has one of the toughest marijuana possession laws in the country. A smoked joint butt could mean up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. There is almost always at least a little marijuana residue in a used joint. In addition, some local law enforcement agencies no longer make marijuana possession arrests. But these policies come and go, and they are limited to specific agencies.
So, marijuana possession is a very serious offense in Allentown. Fortunately, the aggressive Allentown marijuana possession attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin routinely handle drug possession cases. We are familiar with all the complex issues involved, and we are ready to present an assertive defense. This approach often leads to a successful plea bargain or a favorable result at trial.
Breaking Down an Allentown Marijuana Possession Case
Simple possession is normally a misdemeanor. Possession with intent to distribute is normally a felony. If the defendant had a large quantity of marijuana, Lehigh County prosecutors could bring serious charges against the defendant. In addition to quantity, to upgrade charges from possession to distribution, prosecutors look for items like:
- Firearms, and
There must be a connection between the aggravating facts and the marijuana. For example, an illegal firearm in the garage might have little or nothing to do with marijuana in the living room. Some additional defenses are outlined below.
Pretrial diversion may be available in many cases. That’s especially true if the defendant has no criminal record and is charged with misdemeanor possession. Normally, after the defendant completes a drug education class and jumps through some other hoops, prosecutors dismiss the case. As a result, the defendant has no criminal record.
If any drug case goes to trial, prosecutors must establish each element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. That trial could be before a judge or a jury.
Possible Defenses At Trial and During Plea Negotiations
We have already looked at one defense. Another involves the difference between possession and position. These are two very different concepts. If police find marijuana in a car, they usually arrest everyone in the car. But to establish a possession case, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant:
- Knew exactly where the drugs were, and
- Could easily access the contraband.
Assume officers find a dime bag in a car’s glove compartment. It would be almost impossible to prove possession if the defendant was in the back driver’s side seat. That’s especially true if the defendant did not know the drugs were in the car and/or the glove compartment was locked.
If officers found drugs in a house, they usually obtained a search warrant prior to the seizure. This warrant must be specific as to the place and items. “Drugs in the house” is probably not an adequate description. Something like “marijuana in the master bedroom” is much better.
Finally, Pennsylvania has a medical marijuana law. Most other states have similar laws. However, in Lehigh County, the prescription must come from a Pennsylvania doctor, and the entire transaction must pass muster under Pennsylvania law.
Reach Out to Tenacious Drug Crime Attorneys
The winds of change may be blowing in terms of marijuana laws, but possession is still a serious crime in Pennsylvania. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Allentown, contact van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin. Home and jail visits are available.