Individuals that are convicted with any of the various drug possession charges understand that they’re facing an entire range of sentences and penalties which may vary from every state. The sentences for possession charges can vary from a $100 fine with a couple of days in jail to hundred of thousands of dollars with several years of prison time.
The penalties for simple drug possession charges are the lightest in terms of other sentences. Charges involving the distribution of prescribed medicine or manufacturing illegal drugs would often carry a harsher sentence. There are times when the prosecutor will offer a plea deal to the defendant who could be ready to aid them during a higher-priority case or investigation. If a defendant is able to help the prosecution in arresting a drug ring leader, a plea deal will be offered to the defense team.
The penalties for drug possession charges may differ based on various factors and state where the case was filed or where the defendant was arrested. Defendants are urged to work alongside an experienced defense lawyer to assist the case and have a far better chance of getting it dropped. If dropping the charge is impossible, the goal is to get a lenient conviction.
Drug Possession Charges State vs Federal Penalties
Federal legislators enacted the minimum sentencing guidelines that overrule drug offenses since 1986. The enactment was made in an effort by the lawmakers to permit the law enforcers to focus on high-level distributors and drug ring leaders. The cases of crime leaders may have an impact on the cases of the lower-level drug defendants.
Most states have their own similar approach when it involves any drug sentences. The sentences that are fixed are often dependent on the type of the drug, the amount of the drugs, and the individual’s previous convictions. The difference is how strict or lenient are the minimum sentencing guidelines being enforced in a state. An example is with the state of Kentucky which follows the minimum sentencing guidelines, yet it’s one among the states with the strictest provisions when it comes to drug possession charges. One possession charge in the state of Kentucky may lead first-time offenders to have two to 10 years in prison and a fine reaching up to $20,000. Meanwhile, California also follows the minimum sentencing guidelines by the federal legislation but the state is one of the most lenient jurisdictions when it comes to drug possession sentences. The jail time for first-time offenders can be 15 to 180 days in prison and a fine of $100 to $500.
Convictions and penalties associated with possession with intent to deliver charge often varies on the type of substance involved in the case. The PWID conviction for LSD or marijuana comes with five years of jail time with $15,000 maximum fine. PCP, cocaine, and meth have a maximum sentence of 10 years with a fine of $100,000. A PWID conviction for heroin constitutes to 15 years in prison with a $250,000 fine.
Specialized Drug Courts
Multiple states have established drug courts that have systems that are only focused on felony drug defendants which are often overseen by the judge. The goal of the court is to rehabilitate the defendant instead of filing drug possession charges which will require a court trial. Judges have considerable control over the operations and mandates of the drug courts. If a defendant agrees to be on a drug court, the individual would check-in for more than 12 months. The time spent was designated for treatment sessions, rehabilitation activities, and random drug tests. The defendant will appear before the drug court judge frequently. Defendants who have agreed to be admitted to the “drug court procedures” but did not appear in the scheduled proceedings or tested positive for drugs while checked in the program, will be arrested and will be given brief jail time.
Aside from the minimum sentencing guidelines, there are other factors that have an effect on the sentences and penalties that a defendant may face. When the court is preparing the sentence, the judge would check out if there are aggravating or mitigating instances related to the case. These instances may involve the defendant’s past records, which includes the type of drug in which the case revolves around.
Many jurisdictions would hand down a harsher sentence for convictions if the case happened near a school. This will be considered as an aggravating instance in this case. The sentence can be lighter if the defendant is simply aiding an abusive partner with regards to the drug trade operation. The defendant could be given a lesser charge with the abuse as this serves as a mitigating instance for the court.
State Drug Possession Laws
The federal law has an overruling power when enforcing drug laws. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is concentrated on interstate operations and larger drug trafficking crimes. Drug possession charges are often dealt with by the local and state laws governing the jurisdiction where the case took place.