What are the Penalties for Drug Charges in Pennsylvania?

drug penalties pennsylvaniaLet’s face the facts: a lot of people use drugs. Nearly 12% of people over 12 years of age used drugs or misused prescription drugs in the United States in the last year, according to the CDC.

More than a million people are arrested for drug possession in the United States every year, and Pennsylvania is no exception to a high amount of drug use and offenses.

While the majority of people being charged with drug crimes are buying drugs and have addiction problems, another portion is involved with the selling, transporting, manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs. These are two very different crimes and the penalties usually fall into two categories, depending on the amount of drugs involved in the crime: Simple drug possession and PWID or Possession with Intent to Deliver or Distribute. The latter comes with much higher penalties, but both can send you to prison.

Illegal drugs can mean marijuana, cocaine, illegal steroids, ecstasy, synthetic drugs, methamphetamine, opioids like oxycodone and heroin, as well as illegal prescription drugs like Ambien, Xanax, and valium.

In the case with marijuana, because it is legal in Pennsylvania for medical purposes and is being decriminalized in some cities in Pennsylvania, often the fines and penalties can be less severe than a regular simple drug possession charge.

For Simple Possession, a defendant faces the following penalties:

Other indirect penalties could include driver’s license suspension, being prohibited from owning a firearm, loss of employment, difficulty getting car insurance and/or high insurance premiums, mandatory treatment programs, loss of parental rights and inability to obtain student loans.

For PWID, a first offense for Schedule I or II drugs, the penalty is:

  • Two years in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000 (2-10 grams)
  • Three years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000 (11-99 grams)
  • Five years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000 (100 or more grams)

Read more information about drug penalties in Pennsylvania.

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Pennsylvania, call Attorney Ketchel for a free legal consultation. It is important to remember that being charged with a crime does not necessarily mean you will be convicted or face full charges. An attorney can help you understand your options and fight for the best possible outcome for you and your family.

Our number one goal is to have your charges dismissed and your record clean.



We offer free legal consultations to anyone charged with a crime. Call us today to find out how we can help defend your rights.

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Marijuana and DUI in Pennsylvania

DUI of Marijuana / Cannabis in Pennsylvania

Information on What Happens When Charged with DUI of Marijuana in Pennsylvania

While many counties in Pennsylvania have begun relaxing marijuana laws and penalties for possession, when it comes to driving under the influence of cannabis, Pennsylvania’s DUI law is incredibly strict.

Driving while under the influence of cannabis is illegal in all states and Pennsylvania has perhaps the strictest laws in place.

Pennsylvania’s DUI of a Controlled Substance law  is constructed in a way that any amount of cannabis, cannabis metabolites or other controlled substances in your system will be sufficient to find you guilty of DUI.

A first-time conviction for DUI of drugs can include a prison sentence of up to six months, a 12-month license suspension and a fine. If there are subsequent offenses, the penalties will sharply increase.

Charged with DUI of Marijuana Without Being Impaired

To be charged with DUI of a Controlled Substance, the driver does not have to be high nor impaired.

This is called the “Per Se” law for DUI of marijuana, meaning prosecutors do not have to show that you were impaired while driving.

With the legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, many people who are obtaining medical marijuana legally are still being charged with DUI offenses due to having marijuana in their system. Even if a person is using marijuana properly and as prescribed, and are not high at the time of the arrest, they can be charged with Driving Under the Influence.

Amounts of THC can remain in the blood for up to a month, which means within that month any medical marijuana patient who drives and be targeted for DUI.

Under the Pennsylvania Law Code (Pa. Con. Stat. §75-3802) the following applies for DUI of Marijuana:

(d)  Controlled substances.–An individual may not drive, operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle under any of the following circumstances:

(1)  There is in the individual’s blood any amount of a:

(i)  Schedule I controlled substance, as defined in the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L.233, No.64), known as The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act;

(ii)  Schedule II or Schedule III controlled substance, as defined in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, which has not been medically prescribed for the individual; or

(iii)  metabolite of a substance under subparagraph (i) or (ii).

Again, you do not have to be “high,” you do not have to be impaired, or “incapable of safely operating a vehicle” to be found guilty of a DUI under this law. The THC from the marijuana just has to be present in your blood, in any amount.

It is imperative that this “zero tolerance” law be changed to stop this legal trap set up by the current laws. There are currently groundbreaking cases ongoing to help show that merely having THC metabolites or low level of Delta Nine THC in your blood has no correlation to impairment, and therefore the current Pennsylvania DUI law needs to be changed.

An arrest is not a conviction.

DUI Charges can be stressful and threatening to your freedom and livelihood. However, just because you were charged does not mean you will be convicted. There are many option to fighting a DUI Charge in Pennsylvania, even for DUI of Marijuana.

DUI Charges of a Controlled Substance Can Be Fought and Won in Court.



If you or a loved one is charged with driving under the influence of cannabis, please contact Ketchel Law for consultation and representation to help you fight this outdated law.

The Attorneys at Ketchel Law are experienced Pennsylvania DUI Lawyers.  Our Attorneys are here to help you understand your rights and the charges you face.

Call Attorney Justin Ketchel today for a free consultation.

Learn more about Hiring a DUI Lawyer in PA.

Learn More About DUI Laws in Pennsylvania: