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Home 9 Drug Charges 9 Facing a First-Time Possession Charge? Here’s What You Need to Know

Facing a First-Time Possession Charge? Here’s What You Need to Know

A man with his hands behind his back holding a baggie of drugs while a police officer puts handcuffs on him.

In the world of criminal law, facing a first-time possession charge for a drug crime can be an overwhelming and frightening experience. The weight of uncertainty, the fear of legal consequences, and the stress of navigating the complex legal system can all contribute to immense pressure on individuals in such situations.

As you delve into this blog post, you will gain valuable insights into what to do if you find yourself charged with a drug crime for the first time in Pennsylvania. From understanding the nuances of drug possession laws to exploring potential defenses and legal strategies, this post aims to equip you with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions during this challenging time.

At Marinaro Law Firm, our experienced drug possession lawyer stands ready to guide you through these turbulent waters. With a focus on aggressive representation, attention to detail, and a commitment to protecting your rights, we are here to provide the support and advocacy you need. Don’t face this battle alone. Schedule a case review today and take the first step towards a more robust defense and a brighter future.

What Types of Drug Possession Charges Are There?

When facing a first-time possession charge for drugs, it’s crucial to understand what constitutes drug possession in Pennsylvania. Simply having illicit substances on your person or within your control can lead to serious legal consequences. The quantity and type of drug in your possession can impact the severity of the charges you may face.

For instance, being found with a small amount of marijuana for personal use may result in different penalties compared to possessing large quantities of controlled substances with an intent to distribute. Understanding the nuances of drug possession laws can help you navigate the legal terrain more effectively and make informed decisions about your defense strategy.

Another example of drug possession charges happened when you needed a simple solution to your back pain. Your close friend offered you some muscle relaxers and painkillers to get you by until you were able to see a doctor. However, during a traffic stop, a police officer discovered the prescription drug. In PA, possession of a controlled substance is illegal, so the police charged you with the unlawful possession of narcotics.

Whether you have a first-time possession charge due to marijuana, heroin, or illegally possessing prescription drugs, you have the right to defend yourself. At Marinaro Law Firm, our experienced drug possession lawyer can provide valuable insights into the specifics of drug possession laws in Pennsylvania, helping you comprehend the charges you’re facing and guiding you toward building a robust defense tailored to your circumstances.

Two Major Drug Possession categories

In general, drug possession falls into one of two types. The offender had the substance for personal use, or they planned to sell it. Usually, if there is evidence of intent to distribute, the court will issue more severe penalties. In order to prove an intention to sell, the defendant must have specific items to aid in the distribution. For example, if a person is charged with possessing a large quantity of marijuana, there must also be tools such as scales, baggies, and other items that point to an intent to distribute.


Drug laws also apply to paraphernalia. In most cases, a newly purchased pipe or bong is not a violation of drug regulations. However, if law enforcement officers catch a person with these items after use and residue of a drug is present, first-time possession charges might follow.

Other items that drug laws also prohibit include certain types of chemicals or substances that a person can use to make drugs. For example, items that people use to manufacture methamphetamine can lead to possession charges.

If you or a loved one has a first-time possession charge, you have the right to defend yourself. A conviction for drug possession can result in jail time, heavy fines, and many other problems in the future.

What Should I Expect if I’ve Been Charged with a Drug Crime?

Random drug paraphernalia, like spoons, a needle, and a lighter, on the ground.

Being charged with a drug crime for the first time can be a life-altering experience, fraught with uncertainty and anxiety. The consequences of a drug crime conviction can extend beyond legal penalties to impact your reputation, employment opportunities, and personal relationships. It’s essential to act swiftly and decisively to address the charges against you.

Upon being charged, you may face a series of legal proceedings, including arraignment, bail hearings, pre-trial conferences, and potentially a trial. Navigating these stages requires careful planning, strategic decision-making, and a solid understanding of your rights under the law.

Drug paraphernalia,Flakka drug or zombie drug is dangerous life-threatening,Thailand no to drug conceptYou will face serious consequences when police prosecute you for the unlawful possession, distribution, cultivation, or manufacturing of a controlled substance in Pennsylvania. Depending on the quantity and quality of the drugs found in your possession, the County District Attorney, Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, and/or Drug Task Force may be called to investigate you as a part of a larger criminal conspiracy.

If you are questioned by police or indicted as a subject in a drug crime, you should understand how Pennsylvania’s substance abuse laws apply to your case. You could be prosecuted for illegal possession or sale of marijuana, prescription drugs, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, methadone, or any type of paraphernalia under 35 P.S. 780-101–780-144 of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act.

Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing Guidelines are set forth under 204 Pa. Code 303 and can range toward the upper and lower end of the scale, depending on factors such as:

  • Is the crime a felony or misdemeanor?
  • Are there aggravating or mitigating circumstances?
  • Does the defendant have a history of criminal convictions?

There are some opportunities in which you may be released into a Drug Diversion or Treatment Program rather than having to face a possible prison term. Depending on the facts of your case and your history of drug abuse and convictions, we can discuss opportunities with you in detail to avoid jail and/or reduce your sentence substantially. Furthermore, if the police lack probable cause to substantiate the charges, we will have all charges dismissed.

Marinaro Law Firm, with its vast experience in dealing with drug crimes, can help you take the steps necessary to mitigate or prevent the possibility of a conviction. By seeking the guidance of Marinaro Law Firm’s drug possession lawyer, you can understand the legal process ahead, learn more about your options, and work towards securing the best possible outcome for your case.

What Is Drug Trafficking?

The only thing that separates a simple possession charge from a drug trafficking charge is the number of drugs seized from your home, vehicle, or person. If you possess more of a drug that you could reasonably use yourself, it is assumed that you will probably sell the drug to dealers who will distribute it to users.

If you are convicted of drug trafficking, you will likely face a mandatory minimum jail sentence and fines that may cause much hardship to you and your family. You need a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, drug trafficking defense attorney who is experienced and has an outstanding track record of success to help you defend your rights and protect your interests.

The war on drugs has led to increased penalties for defendants convicted of trafficking illegal substances. In Pennsylvania alone, individuals convicted of drug trafficking under 18 Pa.C.S. 7508 are likely to face severe penalties such as:

  • Mandatory minimum jail sentences: A defendant who is convicted of drug trafficking may be required to serve a certain number of years in jail without the possibility of parole. You will not be eligible for early release or diversionary programs despite the overcrowding of Pennsylvania’s prisons.
  • Forfeiture of property: Judges are authorized to seize assets that are presumed to be profits from your criminal activities when you are convicted of a drug trafficking crime. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your personal assets may be frozen while your case proceeds to trial.
  • Sentence enhancements for prior convictions: If you have been previously convicted of a crime, you could face a more significant sentence due to your criminal record and apparent re-offense. However, you may face less severe consequences if it’s a first-time possession charge.

Marinaro Lawcan help you if you are being investigated as a participant in a more extensive marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, prescription drug, or controlled substance conspiracy in Lancaster, PA. For information on how our experience can help, contact our office immediately.

What Punishments Can I Face if Convicted of a Drug Crime in PA?

After receiving a drug possession charge, you may be wondering what kind of punishments you might face if the court convicts you. Penalties will often depend on the type of drug possession that occurred. If the court has charged you with possession for personal consumption, the penalties will be much less severe than if it charged you with possession with intent to distribute. There are also other mitigating factors, such as the type of drug, if narcotics were involved, and the state’s stance on the recreational use of marijuana.

Type of drug

The type of drug and the quantity that was on your person during the time of your arrest will play a role in the penalties you might face if convicted. For example, under Pennsylvania state law, if you had less than 30 grams of marijuana on you at the time the police charged you, the court considers it an “upgraded misdemeanor.” You could end up with as much as 30 days in jail and possibly owe $500 in fines.

Other narcotics

In PA, possession of a controlled substance, such as cocaine and heroin, comes with more severe penalties. The court can charge the offender with a felony. Furthermore, the judge might pass a sentence of up to 15 years in jail. Fines will depend on whether or not the offender used drug money to purchase assets. The court could hand down a fine of $250,000 or more. Any assets or profits that resulted from the drug trade can also be seized.

State legalization

While some states have taken steps to legalize medical and recreational use of marijuana, it is essential to remember that in the federal government’s eyes, marijuana is still very illegal. If you are visiting a state that has passed these decriminalization laws, keep in mind that when you are on federal property, you could be violating federal drug laws by possessing marijuana.

If law enforcement officers charged you or a loved one with a recurring or first-time possession charge, you could face severe consequences. Since the drug laws in Pennsylvania are strict, it is vital to have a strong defense.

What Determines Penalties for Drug-Related Crimes?

Residents of Pennsylvania who are facing drug-related charges may be concerned about how it will impact their future. This fear is especially true if you are facing felony charges.

The first thing to understand is that drug-related charges can cover a wide range of scenarios. They cover everything from drug trafficking to first-time possession charges and can apply to any type of drug, including pharmaceutical drugs, when the prescription is being abused. Some of the most common drugs associated with these offenses include heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines. Prescription drugs that are abused most frequently include Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin.

Different offenses also come with varying levels of penalty. Some factors that determine the level of penalty include possession of drug paraphernalia, whether or not you’re facing trafficking charges, if you have sold to minors or around schools, if a drug delivery resulted in death, or if you have been cultivating, manufacturing, or growing drugs with or without the intent to sell.

It should also be noted that any crimes you commit while in possession of drugs could potentially increase the severity of the charges you face. For example, a DUI charge that also involved severe injury or death to another person would be considered a felony.

How Can I Defend Myself Against Drug Possession Charges?

When you receive first-time possession charges, it is not time to lie down and wait for the legal hammer to fall, hoping the judge has a good day and goes easy on you. While this may make for exciting television, your life and your rights are far too valuable to leave to chance.

Your prosecution is already building a case against you, so you must take steps to defend yourself against the charges using all the tools you have available. In many instances, you may have more ways than you realize to fight the charges and challenge each piece of evidence that the prosecution brings against you. Let’s look at some of these ways.

Burden of proof

To get a conviction, the prosecuting attorney must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you knew the drug on your person was a controlled substance and that you knew it was there. In other words, you have to have been fully aware that you possessed the substance and that it was illegal to do so.

Challenging the evidence against you

A man preparing a joint of marijuana.

Many drug possession defenses attempt to undermine the grounds of the arrest by calling into question the conduct of the officer or the circumstances under which the officer found the evidence. If you have not considered these avenues of defense yet, it is wise to explore them as you create a legal strategy.

However, even if you do not find substantial grounds to challenge officer conduct or evidence collection, you still have several ways to challenge the evidence itself. When an officer charges you with a recurrent or first-time possession charge, it is for a specific substance, not simply “they had drugs.” This means that the evidence against you must match the charges.

You can request that the evidence against you undergo detailed laboratory testing to determine its chemical composition, compelling the prosecution to produce the proof and send it to a lab. If you’re lucky, the prosecution may not be able to deliver the evidence if there was a clerical error and it was misfiled or never made it to evidence storage in the first place.

However, suppose the results from the lab are not in your favor. In that case, you may still take steps to scrutinize the methodology within the lab, such as the calibration of the instruments used to identify the substance. In this case, having an attorney with forensic lab experience, like Attorney Marinaro, can be crucial.

Build your defense now while you have time

If you wait to begin building your defense, you only minimize your options to defend yourself, making it easier for the prosecution to secure a conviction. Don’t hesitate to begin working on your defense as soon as possible to give yourself a better chance of beating the charges and keeping your rights and future secure.

Illegal acts by law enforcement

You have the right to the due process of the law. This means that law enforcement officers must comply with legal search and seizure procedures to search your home, vehicle, or person legally. This right means that police must first see something that provides “probable cause” or obtain a warrant before they can look through your personal items. If the arresting officer violated this, the court might dismiss the charges.

The drugs were not yours

If police officers find drugs in your car or home that you did not know were there, this may be a good defense. For example, suppose a friend, relative, or acquaintance stashed marijuana in your apartment without your knowledge. In that case, your attorney may be able to prove that you were completely unaware of the situation.

The police gave you the drugs

Entrapment occurs when police officers take steps to induce or prompt an individual to commit an illegal offense. For example, if the police give the drugs to a person to pose as a dealer in order to catch you buying them, the court may throw out the charges based on entrapment.

The drugs were planted

This particular defense can be challenging to prove. Typically, a police officer’s sworn testimony holds a lot of weight with the judge and the jury, which is why this route may not be the best option. Another reason this defense rarely works is that it is difficult to find other officers willing to testify against one of their own.

However, suppose you are convinced the drugs were planted. In that case, you can speak to your attorney about filing a motion requiring the police department to release the complaint file against the suspected officer. This step gives your attorney the opportunity to examine and investigate other complaints made against the officer for signs of similar behavior that may be used as evidence.

Start Building Your Defense Against Your First-Time Possession Charge Today with Marinaro Law Firm!

As we reflect on the challenges you face when dealing with a first-time possession charge for a drug crime, it’s undeniable that the emotions stirred by this situation can be profound. The mixture of fear, uncertainty, and the weight of legal consequences can cast a shadow over your peace of mind, creating a sense of overwhelming pressure.

Throughout this blog post, you’ve acquired essential knowledge on navigating the complexities of a first-time drug crime charge in Pennsylvania. From understanding what constitutes drug possession to exploring the potential legal pathways and defense strategies available to you, you are now equipped with the tools to make informed decisions in this critical moment.

At Marinaro Law Firm, our dedicated drug possession lawyer offers you a lifeline in this tumultuous sea of legal troubles. With a focus on providing aggressive representation, protecting your rights, and offering unwavering support, we empower you to take control of your defense and secure a brighter future. Schedule a case review today to kickstart the journey toward resolution and reclaim your peace of mind in the face of a first-time possession charge. Your proactive step toward seeking legal guidance is the key to unlocking a more certain path forward.


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