Criminal Lawyers in Philadelphia for Drug Charges
Greater Philadelphia Drug Arrest Attorney
The increased use of drugs throughout the country has had an effect on a generation of Americans. There is evidence that indicates that the war on drugs is a failure, yet prosecutors representing the various counties in Greater Philadelphia and the United States of America continue to prosecute cases and impose up to life-long jail sentences at a very high rate. Attorney Joe Mitchell and his offices help defend clients in drug matters involving:
- Possession of Drugs for Sale
- Possession of Drugs
- Manufacturing of Drugs
Following is a list of some illegal drugs:
- Crack Cocaine
- Ecstasy (MDMA)
- Hashish (and Hashish Oil)
Your primary defense against Pennsylvania state drug crimes is not that different to the defense of federal drug crimes (except for differences in sentencing and pre-trial motions). An important factor in determining the severity of the charge is the type and quantity of the illegal drugs involved. Another factor in determining the seriousness of the charge is whether the drugs are for personal use or for sale. A drug offense may be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the quantity and type of drug found by law enforcement. A few pounds of a drug is certainly more serious than just a few ounces, and a few ounces is more serious just than a few grams. Another very important factor is whether or not you have a prior criminal record. For obvious reasons, a prior criminal record could result in a more severe punishment than if the defendant had a clean or relatively minor record consisting of misdemeanors.
Penalties for Drug Charges
Penalties for Drug Crimes are serious. They may include jail/prison time, a fine, seizure of assets (including vehicles), loss of a drivers license and inability to get a license to carry a firearm. Because the potential penalties are so serious, it is critical to obtain a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Federal sentencing guidelines describe forty-three (43) base offense levels for drug charges. The higher the level of offense, the harsher the sentence is likely to be. The base offense level under the federal guidelines varies; it directly depends on the type of drugs and the amount of drugs. For example, Crack is a form of cocaine and is listed on the same schedule of controlled substances. Nevertheless, the quantity of crack needed to impose certain sentences is much less than the quantity of powdered cocaine. Thus, a person convicted of delivering 5 grams of crack will receive a sentence in the federal system of five to forty years. In order to receive this sentence on a cocaine charge, a person would have to be convicted of delivering 500 grams of powdered cocaine. It is important for an accused person to be represented by a lawyer who has experience navigating these sorts of sentencing issues.
The crime of “simple possession” requires that a person knowingly and intentionally possess an illegal/scheduled drug without a legitimate prescription. The government is required to prove that the offender knew that the drug was a controlled substance and that he/she had either actual possession of it or some other control over it. The federal sentencing guidelines allow for a maximum of one year in prison for a first-time offender, a maximum of two years in prison for a second-time offender, and a maximum of three years in prison for a third-time offender (or higher). Please note the exception for crack cocaine – the sentence for possession of more than five grams of crack cocaine is increased to a minimum of five years in prison, even for those who are first-time offenders.
Manufacturing, delivering, or possessing with intent to deliver a controlled substance is a crime with escalating penalties. The severity of the penalties depends on the drug involved, the quantity of the drug, and the offenders prior criminal record. For example, a first-time offender convicted of possessing with intent to deliver 100 grams to 5 kilograms of heroin will receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison (the sentence can be as high as forty years). It is important to note that there are 3 crimes that serve as “enhancement crimes.” The sentence for these “enhancement crimes” is double or triple what it might otherwise be for distributing that particular amount and type of drug under other circumstances. The 3 enhancement crimes are:
- Distributing controlled substances to people who are under 21 years of age.
- Distributing controlled substances near a school.
- Causing people under the age of 18 to violate drug laws.
For more detailed information about federal drug trafficking penalties and Pennslyvania drug sentencing guidelines, please call our offices at 215-557-7111.
Pennsylvania Drug Sentencing Alternatives:
When it comes to drug cases, treatment is often a more appropriate sentence than jail or prison. This is because it is important to help people with their drug problem and not simply punish them. If you have been arrested for a drug-related offense, there are various treatment options. Alternatives include County Intermediate Punishment Programs, State Intermediate Punishment Programs, ARD, Section 17 and in Philadelphia, Drug Treatment Court.
Diversion requires the defendant to enter a plea of guilty to the drug charge, but the accused is NOT sentenced (keep in mind that nothing is ever final in criminal cases until the defendant is actually sentenced). The offender must then undergo the Section 17 program, which consists of a number of classes and drug treatment. Drug testing is conducted randomly, and a “dirty” test can create new legal problems for the offender.
There are eligibility requirements that have to be met before the drug offender can be placed in Section 17. This is one of the reasons that it is important to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer for a drug charge. If the offender qualifies, this option should be made available. If diversion is completed successfully, the case is dismissed, and the defendant will have avoided conviction of the crime. This is one way to keep a criminal record clean.
Drug Treatment Court
A Drug Court is a special court that is given the responsibility of handling cases that involve drug-addicted offenders through a supervision and treatment program. Although a period of in-patient treatment is sometimes required, the case is dismissed when the program is successfully completed.
Call my Office and Speak Directly to Attorney Mitchell or one of his experienced staff. If you have any questions or would like to speak directly to an experienced criminal attorney regarding your Drug Case, please do not hesitate to call my Philadelphia office at 215-557-7111 for a FREE CONSULTATION. If you prefer, you may e-mail us and Attorney Mitchell or his experienced staff will be in touch with you as soon as possible.