Heroin Possession Charges in Pennsylvania
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Heroin use has become mainstream across the United States over the past several years. Cheaper than beer, it is no longer an “urban” drug, but affects people of all walks of life from the suburbs to rural areas. The number of people dying from overdoses and tainted heroin or “look alike” heroin, such as fentanyl, is increasing dramatically and law enforcement agencies are cracking down.
Over 8,000 people died from a heroin-related death in 2013 in the United States. In 2012, 288 people died from heroin overdoses in Allegheny County alone.
If you have been arrested or charged with heroin possession you probably have many questions about the penalties you face, sentencing guidelines, the court process and how you can fight for your rights and keep your freedom.
This webpage gives general sentencing guidelines and a basic understanding of heroin penalties in PA, but if you would like detailed information on your unique circumstances, call experienced Pittsburgh Heroin Attorney Justin Ketchel for a free legal consultation.
DON’T EVER THINK THAT JUST BECAUSE THE POLICE FOUND
DRUGS ON YOU THEY HAVE “PROOF” THAT YOU ARE GUILTY.
If you have been charged with simple possession of heroin or possession with intent to deliver (PWID) including trafficking, transportation, distributing or selling, or face federal or state charges, the experienced Pittsburgh drug lawyers at Ketchel Law can help you understand your charges and build a strong case to defend your rights.
PENALTIES IN PA FOR HEROIN POSSESSION OR HEROIN PWID
Many different factors will determine whether you are charged with simple possession of heroin (a misdemeanor) or PWID heroin (a felony). The penalties you face depend on the charges brought against you and whether you can get those charges reduced. An experienced attorney can help you try to get your charges reduced, which could mean a drastic reduction in sentencing and punishment.
The penalties in Pennsylvania for simple possession of heroin, even for first-time offenses, are pretty tough. If you are convicted of simple possession of heroin, it is considered a misdemeanor and you could be facing two years of prison and a $5,000 fine for a first offense.
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 criminal charge for Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID) is a felony and has much more serious consequences than simple possession. Possession with “Intent to Deliver” includes distributing, manufacturing or producing heroin, or selling or even giving away heroin. PWID is also known as drug trafficking.
A conviction for Heroin PWID 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.
Sentencing for PWID heroin is a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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 determining sentencing factors.
AMOUNT OF HEROIN—SENTENCING GUIDELINES IN PA
Heroin is classified as a Schedule I drug under both federal sentencing guidelines and the “The Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act” of Pennsylvania.
Title 18, Chapter 75 of The Controlled Substances Act of PA states the following sentencing guidelines for possession of heroin:
- 0 to 5.0 grams: A mandatory minimum of two years in prison and a fine of $5,000 or more for a first offense*.
- At least 5.0 grams to 50 grams: A mandatory minimum of three years in prison and a fine of $15,000 or more for a first offense*. A mandatory minimum of five years in prison for a second offense.
- 50 grams or greater: A mandatory minimum of five years in prison and a fine of $25,000 or more for a 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.
OUR NUMBER ONE GOAL: HAVING YOUR HEROIN CHARGES DISMISSED.
Penalties of a Heroin Conviction could include:
- A Lengthy Prison Sentence
- Substantial Court Costs, Legal Expenses And Fines
- Loss or Suspension of Driver’s License
- Forfeiture of Property And Assets
- Prohibited from Owning and Carrying a Firearm
- Loss of Employment
- Loss of Parental Rights
- Significantly Higher Insurance Premiums
- Unable to Obtain Insurance Coverage
- Loss of Eligibility for College Financial Aid
- Difficulty Finding Employment
POSSESSION OF HEROIN PARAPHERNALIA CHARGES
It is illegal to possess drug paraphernalia used for smoking or ingesting illegal drugs, even if you do not have any actual drugs in your possession.
- Penalties for paraphernalia include up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine for a first offense.
Types of heroin paraphernalia can include any object used or intended for use of heroin. This includes not only objects for using heroin, but also for storing, manufacturing, testing, packaging, containing or carrying heroin.
Types of objects commonly considered as heroin paraphernalia include: plastic bags, scales, needles and syringes, pipes, bowls, straws or tubes, spoons, aluminum gum wrappers, balloons, soda cans, bottle tops and other objects that are found to have heroin residue or were used for storing heroin.
OUR NUMBER ONE GOAL: HAVING YOUR HEROIN CHARGES DISMISSED.
DEFENDING YOUR RIGHTS—An arrest is not a conviction.
A possession of heroin charge does not mean you will be convicted. You are presumed innocent of all charges unless a judge or jury finds you guilty.
Even so, Pennsylvania and U.S. prosecutors take heroin cases very seriously and will do everything they can to get a conviction.
A skilled drug defense attorney will vehemently battle all charges to protect your rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. Call Attorney Justin Ketchel today at 412-456-1221 for a free consultation of your case.
DEFENDING HEROIN CHARGES
A skilled drug defense attorney could use a number of defenses to battle your heroin charges.
One such defense is a violation of your Constitutional Rights. In order to search the area where the heroin 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.
In Pennsylvania you can be charged with Actual Possession of Drugs (found with drugs on your person) or Constructive Possession of Drugs (aware of drugs nearby with access and an intent to use it). Defense strategies might include challenging whether the substance was actually heroin or challenging the evidence of intent to use or deliver/distribute heroin.
There are also a number of drug diversion 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. Contact Attorney Ketchel for a free consultation to find out if you are eligible or could qualify.
An aggressive attorney will look at every angle and fully investigate your case, examining witnesses and identifying problems with police procedures. An experienced attorney knows how to negotiate a reduction of charges in order to lessen sentencing.
At Ketchel Law, our skilled attorneys and legal team will thoroughly investigate your case and fight your heroin 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: HAVING YOUR POSSESSION OF DRUGS CASE DISMISSED.
At Ketchel Law, 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.
A drug charge does not have to mean a drug conviction.
Learn More About Drug Charges in Pennsylvania:
- Simple Possession of Drugs
- First Time Drug Charge in PA
- PWID Drugs
- Drug Sentencing in PA
- Pittsburgh Marijuana Lawyer
- Pittsburgh Cocaine Lawyer
- Illegal Steroid Charges
- Ecstasy, Meth & PCP Lawyer
- Drug Paraphernalia Charges
- Prescription Fraud Charges in PA
- Drug Diversion Programs in Western Pennsylvania
- Property Forfeiture and Asset Seizure
- Drug Trafficking Charges in PA
- Pittsburgh Drug Attorneys
HEROIN TREATMENT OPTIONS IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY
If you or a loved one is seeking treatment options for heroin addiction, see the following list of resources in Allegheny County: