Drug Possession Charges: What's the Difference?
Use or possession of illegal drugs, or illegal use of legal drugs, constitutes a serious charge. At Patriots Law Group, we understand that good people can make mistakes and we fight hard to ensure a single mistake doesn't end a person's career and ability to move forward with their life after a mistake.
In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) outlined the five “schedules” of controlled substances. The CSA ranks certain drugs and medications based on their addictiveness, likelihood for abuse, and potential use in the American medical system. Schedule I covers drugs with a high potential for abuse and dependence, with little to no currently accepted medical use. These include substances like ecstasy, heroin, LSD, psilocybin (mushrooms), and “club drugs.” Possessing these drugs, whether for personal use or for sale to others, is considered a criminal offense.
Under Maryland law, “a person may not possess or administer to another a controlled dangerous substance,” unless it is prescribed and distributed by authorized providers. Similarly, it is illegal to “obtain or attempt to obtain a controlled dangerous substance” by misrepresenting yourself, your symptoms, or other information. These two statements are catch-all prohibitions for controlled substances — in other words, it is illegal to have, try to obtain, or distribute drugs under state law and the Controlled Substances Act.
(Note: Because marijuana has been decriminalized or legalized in many U.S. states, even though it is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, we will not include marijuana in our discussion of these charges. For more information on marijuana laws in the DMV, check out our previous blogs on the subject.)
Today, drug charges typically fall under three categories: possession of drugs in general, possession of drugs with intent to distribute, or possession of drug paraphernalia.
What is considered possession of drugs (in general)?
The English definition of “possession” is the act or state of possessing something, or having it in your control. Having a controlled substance in your pocket, your car, or your home is considered possession, which is a misdemeanor for any amount of Schedule I drugs. Possession of drugs in general can be punishable by significant fines of up to $25,000 (or more in some states), and jail time of up to four years. Penalties vary depending on the substance and amount.)
What is considered possession of drugs with intent to distribute?
“Intent to distribute” enters the picture when it becomes clear that someone possessed drugs for the purpose of giving or selling them to others. This is typically the case when someone is found with controlled substances in such large quantities that it is unreasonable to assume they are all for personal use. In these cases, having a significant enough of drugs in your possession is considered a felony, punishable with a minimum of five years of jail time (up to twenty-five years) and a $100,000 fine.
What is considered possession of drug paraphernalia?
“Drug paraphernalia” refers to the tools, accessories, or other objects that are used to make, take, or distribute controlled substances. For example, these could include pipes, syringes, or other means used to cultivate or manufacture controlled substances. Something can be identified as drug paraphernalia for a variety of reasons and is not limited to a personal statement from the owner or the residue left behind from drug use. Possession of drug paraphernalia is considered a misdemeanor, with sentences of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
Substance use and abuse is a serious issue facing our country today. Despite the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in many states, the opioid epidemic and the rise of other drugs have continued to result in an increasing number of drug charges every year. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges based on drug possession, intent to distribute, or possession of drug paraphernalia, it is critical to speak with an experienced criminal law attorney as quickly as possible.
At Patriots Law Group, we understand how serious drug charges are, and how catastrophic they can be for families and individuals. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, you owe it to yourself and your family to see how we can help. Call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information above is for general informational purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is intended or created by this information. Each individual situation is different and therefore a formal in-person consultation is necessary before any specific advice may be relied upon as appropriate and accurate for a given situation. Please call Patriots Law Group at 301-952-9000 to set up a consultation if you wish to obtain specific legal advice you may rely upon. We serve clients anywhere in the world, with in-person consultations available at our Suitland, MD office — right next to Andrews Air Force Base — for clients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.