Drug Violations Law

What Is Drug Possession With Intent To Distribute?

The difference between drug possession and possession with intent to sell can mean a misdemeanor or a felony. Simple possession charges are generally misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors. Possession with intent to distribute can be a felony.

Understanding your rights in drug possession arrests is essential to ensure the prosecutor doesn’t make you plead guilty to something you didn’t do and to ensure that you don’t face other harmful collateral consequences that could affect other areas of your life.

Criminal laws for drug possession with intent are different in every state. You should contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area for legal advice about your defense strategy after a drug possession arrest.

Drug Possession Laws

Possession of a controlled substance, even for personal use, is a crime in most states. Some states have decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use, but it is still taken very seriously in other states and under federal law. Possession of drugs generally involves finding you were in knowing and actual possession of a controlled substance on your person, on your property, or within an area of your control.

Drug possession offenses and drug possession with the intent to distribute are different criminal charges. These drug crimes are treated very differently, and the difference between drug possession and charges for selling illegal drugs can simply be the amount of drugs involved.

What Is Intent to Sell?

Drug possession with intent to distribute means that the person in possession did not have the drugs just for personal use. Instead, the defendant had the drugs to sell them for money.

In many states, a person charged with a first-time drug offense may be given the option avoid a conviction, if they admit the facts of the charge, complete chemical health treatment, remain sober, and commit no new offenses during the period of probation.

There is a growing trend recognizing that drug charges often stem from a chemical health addiction or mental health-related issues. This compassionate viewpoint has led to many local courts creating “drug courts.” These courts help provide programming that allows a person charged with a drug crime to rehabilitate and become a more productive member of their community.

Felony charges for selling drugs are a more severe offense and can result in a prison sentence and felony criminal record. Drug possession with intent to deliver can be based on the following:

  • Direct evidence of selling drugs
  • Large quantities of drugs and/or paraphernalia
  • Packaging, cash, or circumstantial evidence of sales

The prosecutor has to prove all of the elements of the crime, including the element of intent. Intent can be demonstrated through direct or indirect evidence.

Direct Evidence of Intent to Sell

Direct evidence that the defendant intended to sell drugs usually involves law enforcement witnessing some attempt at a drug deal. This could involve selling drugs to an undercover police officer or informant. Drug deals can include in-person sales, making deals over the phone, or even online drug distribution. In these cases, evidence can include video and audio surveillance, drug tests, and witness testimony.

Intent Based on Quantity

The amount of drugs involved can make a big difference between a possession or distribution charge. Substances are classified based on their medical use and risk of abuse, from Schedule I to Schedule V. The amount of the substance involved can determine whether the defendant is accused of simple possession and intending to sell drugs.

For example, under federal law, the distribution of 100 kilograms of marijuana (220 pounds) is treated similarly to 1 gram of LSD (less than one ounce) or 5 grams of methamphetamines. Possession with intent is a felony offense punishable by a mandatory minimum of 5 years imprisonment with potential penalties of up to 40 years in jail.

Intent Based on Packaging and Paraphernalia

Intent can also be demonstrated by the circumstantial evidence where the drugs were found. Evidence of drug sales can include baggies, scales, firearms, and large amounts of cash. Intent can also be shown where the defendant had drugs in an area known for selling drugs.

Defenses to Possession With Intent to Distribute Drugs

Just because someone is charged with possession with intent to distribute does not mean they are guilty of the drug offense. You have legal rights after an arrest to have a criminal lawyer represent you in court to fight the criminal charges. There are many legal defenses available, including:

  • Did not have actual or constructive possession
  • The substance was not illegal drugs
  • Unlawful search or seizure
  • Unlawful arrest
  • The drugs belonged to someone else
  • Drugs were for personal use

How an Attorney Can Fight Drug Charges

An experienced criminal defense attorney understands how drug charges are treated in your state. Your lawyer can investigate the arrest and build a solid legal defense to get a not-guilty verdict. Sometimes, your attorney can negotiate to drop the charges on the condition that you complete a chemical or mental health treatment program or drug court. Contact a law office with experience handling drug possession charges like yours to learn more about your legal rights.

Was this helpful?