Opioid Possession Charges in Pennsylvania – What Happens Next?
Opioid use has become more popular in recent years, especially in Pennsylvania. From heroin to prescription drugs like oxycontin, people are using more and addiction is rampant.
Police are also cracking down more on drug rings and illegal drug sales, as well as prescription fraud, especially with “look alike” drugs, like fentanyl.
One of the reasons for the crackdown is the number of deaths that are occurring each year from opioids – in Allegheny County alone, there were nearly 700 deaths from an overdose in 2020 and almost 5,000 throughout Pennsylvania.
Some of the most popular types of opioids include:
- Oxycodone (Roxicodone and OxyContin);
- Morphine, and;
- Codeine methylbromide (Eucodin)
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
If you were arrested or charged with opioid possession, you face pretty severe consequences if convicted, including a year in prison and a $5,000 fine – just for simple possession. The penalties for Possession with Intent to Deliver or Distribute are much higher.
However – there are alternatives to jail for first time offenders and other options for fighting drug charges that you and your family should consider. A qualified, experienced opioid defense lawyer can help you understand these options and the penalties you face.
An Arrest is Not a Conviction.
Many people “get busted” and give up hope. But until you are convicted, you are innocent. You still have the legal right to contest the charges and fight to have them either dropped, reduced or to have a reduction in sentencing. Don’t ever think that because the police found drugs on you they have “proof” you are guilty.
At Ketchel Law, we know everyone has faults and makes errors – but that doesn’t mean they deserve a harsh punishment or shouldn’t be given a second chance.
This webpage gives general sentencing guidelines and a basic understanding of opioid conviction penalties in Pennsylvania, but if you would like detailed information on your unique circumstances, call experienced Pittsburgh Drug Attorney Justin Ketchel for a free legal consultation.
If you have been charged with simple possession of opioids or possession with intent to deliver (PWID) opioids, including trafficking, transportation, distributing or selling, or face federal or state charges, our Pittsburgh drug lawyers can help.
The Opioid Lawyers at Ketchel Law can fight for you and build a strong case to defend your rights. Our team of lawyers have over a decade experience in successfully defending the rights of people charged with controlled substances, from marijuana to heroin and prescription drugs.
PENALTIES IN PA FOR OPIOID POSSESSION OR OPIOID PWID
The penalties you face depend on the charges brought against you and whether you can get those charges reduced. An experienced criminal attorney can help you try to get your charges reduced, which could mean a drastic reduction in sentencing and punishment.
The penalties for an Opioid conviction depend on two factors:
- Whether the drugs are Schedule I or Schedule II Opioid, and;
- Whether this is a Simple Possession Charge or a PWID charge.
Typically for a possession offense, the charge may be “Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance by Person Not Registered”. This means that you do not have a prescription or a license to be in possession of the controlled substance.
For a simple possession charge, you face up to one year in prison, a $5,000 fine and a six month drivers license suspension. The penalties increase if this is a second offense. Typically a simple possession conviction results in a misdemeanor.
For PWID (Possession with Intent to Distribute) a controlled substance, you face up to 15 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. A PWID conviction is usually considered a felony.
In the case of fentanyl and synthetic fentanyl-like drugs, you may face both federal and state charges. If this is the case, you will need a federal crime attorney to represent you and defend your rights.
Other penalties include driver’s license suspension, court costs and legal fees, and many other losses of basic freedoms, like owning a firearm or losing parental rights of your children.
A conviction for drug possession or drug trafficking can seriously harm you and your family with forfeiture of property, drivers’ license suspension, hefty fines and prison sentencing being just some of the more extreme penalties.
Other factors, like whether it is a first or second offense, other criminal activity and distributing to a minor or within a school zone, are also weighed in as sentencing factors upon conviction.
Title 18, Chapter 75 of The Controlled Substances Act of PA Under PA Code §7508 states the following sentencing guidelines for trafficking Schedule I and II drugs:
Penalties in Pennsylvania for Opioid Trafficking, first offense:
*The penalties increase for each if the defendant has been convicted of other drug trafficking offenses.
For a full list of penalties read our page on Drug Conviction Penalties in Pennsylvania.
An Arrest is Not a Conviction.
Our #1 goal is to help you get your charges dismissed or significantly reduced.
DEFENSES TO DRUG CHARGES AND OPIOID CHARGES IN PENNSYLVANIA
Being charged with any crime is very stressful, but it is important to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. Until you are convicted, you still have the right to defend yourself against the charges.
An experienced drug attorney can help you through the process and select a defense strategy with the goal of having your charges dismissed or withdrawn.
DON’T EVER THINK THAT JUST BECAUSE THE POLICE FOUND
DRUGS ON YOU THEY HAVE “PROOF” THAT YOU ARE GUILTY.
Some of the most common defenses to drug charges or controlled substance cases include:
- Lack of Probable Cause;
- Warrantless Search;
- Lack of Intent or Knowledge of possession;
- The controlled substance in your possession was prescribed by a doctor;
- The drugs did not belong to you;
- Drugs were planted by the police;
- Drug Paraphernalia was not an illegal item and there was no intent to use it for drugs, and;
- Drug Test results were improperly obtained or mishandled by police.
In order to get a conviction, the prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You knowingly and intentionally had control of an illegal drug;
- You were aware that the drug is illegal, present, and planned to use or control them;
The prosecution will need to prove these elements in your case. In some circumstances, it may be possible to have the evidence suppressed, which could lead in a full dismissal of all charges.
Our Pittsburgh Drug Lawyers are skilled in pouring over case details and police reports in order to determine whether they have a solid case against you or if they made any missteps in their procedures.
Another defense is a violation of your Constitutional Rights. In order to search the area where the drug was located, the police need probable cause and must have reasonable suspicion to perform the search. There are several procedures they must follow and if the police violated your Constitutional rights, a motion to suppress the evidence can be brought. If the evidence is suppressed, the case will be dismissed.
A skilled drug defense attorney could use a number of defenses to battle your opioid charges.
OPTIONS TO AVOID JAIL TIME FOR DRUG OFFENSES IN PENNSYLVANIA
There are a number of drug diversion (alternative-to-jail) programs and probationary programs in Allegheny County that are available to first-time offenders such as Probation Without Verdict (PWOV), which will result in a full dismissal of charges, and the Pennsylvania Drug Court.
The Probation without Verdict (PWOV) Program
One option an experienced attorney can do for you is negotiate a Probation Without Verdict with the District Attorney. This option will help keep you out of jail, but you will have to plead guilty, so first weigh all the consequences and go over all the options with your attorney. Successful completion of the Probation Without Verdict (PWOV) program will result in a full dismissal of your charge(s) and expungement of your criminal record.
Pennsylvania Drug Court
Another drug diversion program in Pennsylvania is the Pennsylvania Drug Court. Admittance to Drug Court is extremely limited and if accepted, is a major commitment.
The Pennsylvania Drug Court was set up in order to rehabilitate drug dealers—more specifically, those who sell drugs to support their own drug habit. If you think you may qualify, contact a Pittsburgh Drug Lawyer to discuss options.
There are strict guidelines to be followed and gaining admittance to a Drug Diversion Program in PA requires the help of an attorney.
How Can a Pittsburgh Drug Lawyer Help?
At Ketchel Law, our skilled attorneys and legal team will thoroughly investigate your case and fight your drug charges. We will build a strong defense and fight for your criminal record to be expunged or have your sentencing significantly lowered.
Our number one goal is to have your case dismissed and charges withdrawn. If that is not possible, there are numerous ways of attempting a reduction in sentencing such as probation vs. jail.
Talk to an experienced attorney for a free consultation about whether you may be eligible to have your record expunged and how best to fight your charges.
OUR NUMBER ONE GOAL: HAVING YOUR POSSESSION OF DRUGS CASE DISMISSED.
A drug charge does not have to mean a drug conviction.
Learn More About Drug Charges in Pennsylvania: