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Pennsylvania Drug Possession Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Drug Possession Laws

In Pennsylvania, it is a crime to possess illegal or controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and other drugs. A defendant will be found guilty of drug possession if the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he/she knowingly and intentionally possessed a controlled substance. If the defendant has a valid prescription or physician's order for the drug, then he/she may not be charged. Also, if the defendant is a registered or licensed practitioner who has a license under the appropriate Pennsylvania State Board, he/she may not be charged with possession.

Defenses to Drug Possession Charges

  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Insufficient quantity of the drug
  • The drug was prescribed by a medical doctor
  • The defendant has a license to carry the drug or is a medical practitioner licensed by the State Board
  • Drugs did not belong to the defendant
  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • Entrapment

NOTE: Addiction is not a defense.

Penalties and Sentences

Penalties for drug possession vary widely depending on the type of drug and how much of it was found in the defendant's possession. Possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana will be an ungraded misdemeanor. This carries a penalty of up to 30 days in prison and/or a fine of up to $500.

For other narcotic drugs, the defendant can be charged with a felony and may receive a sentence of up to fifteen years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000 or more if necessary to exhaust the assets and profits built up from the illegal activity. Depending on the type of drug, the amount found in possession, and the classification the state puts them in, penalties may range from minor probation or fines to lengthy periods in jail and large fines.

While some states have legalized possession of marijuana for medical use with a physician's recommendation, it is still considered illegal in all cases under federal law. See FindLaw's overview of medical marijuana laws for more information.

Below you will find more information about drug possession charges in Pennsylvania.

Code Section

Pennsylvania Health and Safety Code, Title 35, Section 780-113 et. seq. (Scroll down to subsections 30 - 33)

Defenses

Defenses to Drug Possession Charges

  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Insufficient quantity of the drug
  • The drug was prescribed by a medical doctor
  • The defendant has a license to carry the drug or is a medical practitioner licensed by the State Board
  • Drugs did not belong to the defendant
  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • Entrapment

 

Penalties

See above, misdemeanor or felony

Addiction a defense? 

No

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Criminal Laws Related Resources:

Free Pennsylvania Drug Crimes Case Review

Whether you are charged with possession or cocaine or heroin, methamphetamine or some new, designer drug, the laws are tough when it comes to illegal substances in Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions about your case including possible penalties, the impact a conviction will have on your criminal history, and more, you can get those questions answered. Get a free case review from a criminal defense expert today.

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