Pennsylvania residents who are convicted on drug possession charges can face a wide range of penalties. If they are prosecuted in federal court, they would face tough mandatory minimum sentences implemented by Congress in 1986 to stem an epidemic of drug use and narcotics-related violence. The sentence handed down in a state court would likely be far less severe. The drug possession penalties in some parts of the country are almost as harsh as federal sentencing sentences, but lawmakers in some states have taken a more lenient approach. However, these sentences are generally reserved for nonviolent offenders who obtained drugs for their own personal use. Individuals who planned to sell narcotics to others or engaged in violent behavior in furtherance of their criminal activities can expect little sympathy even in state court.
Pennsylvania drug possession penalties
If you are caught with 30 grams or less of marijuana in Pennsylvania, you will be charged with a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and a fine of not more than $500. In Kentucky, the same narcotics charge carries a maximum custodial sentence of 20 years and a maximum fine of $20,000. The penalties for possessing other controlled substances and larger quantities of marijuana are more severe in Pennsylvania, but they are still far more lenient than the sentences handed down in many other states.
Factors that can lead to a harsher drug possession sentence
Both state and federal judges take several factors into consideration when determining what drug possession penalties to hand down. Aggravating factors could include the defendant’s prior criminal record, the way they conducted themselves during police interviews and the type and quantity of the drugs involved. Penalties also tend to be more severe when individuals were caught with drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or park.
Mitigating factors in drug possession cases
Judges and prosecutors also consider mitigating factors, and experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek a more lenient sentence by citing aspects of their client’s behavior or circumstances during plea negotiations or sentencing hearings. If you are facing drug possession charges in Pennsylvania, a defense attorney could argue that you should receive a less severe sentence if you have entered a drug counseling program, have a full-time job, are genuinely remorseful and can count on the support of your friends and family members.