The War on Drugs is war on people within our borders. It's a war that has claimed the lives of untold many, both in the violence it has encouraged and in the lives it has ruined by putting people behind bars for the mere possession of a substance.
But it's a war that federal and Pennsylvania officials keep fighting, regardless of its continued failure. While those targeted have the weight of government prosecution on them, they still have rights. Experienced and aggressive attorneys can help them exercise those rights and fight the charges.
Philadelphia Drug Defense Lawyer
If you're facing federal or state drug charges, the tough Philadelphia drug defense lawyers at Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC can represent you. In the War on Drugs, you are the enemy, and state and federal prosecutors may aim to give you the harshest penalties possible. Our criminal defense attorneys will challenge evidence, seeking to undermine the case against you and have charges dropped.
You call the shots on whether you want to offer a guilty plea to seek a better deal, and we will be honest about your options. But we don't seek to plead you out for an easy case. We're fighters at Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC. Call us today at (215) 665-1695 to schedule a consultation about your drug charges.
We serve Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Chester Counties, and are licensed in both state and federal courts. We also represent clients in New Jersey.
Pennsylvania Drug Charges Information Center
- Federal vs. Pennsylvania Drug Laws
- How Schedules of Drugs Affect Law in Philadelphia
- Drug Charges in Pennsylvania
In most criminal matters, the law is dictated by the Commonwealth. For controlled substances, however, not only are there state laws banning the possession, distribution and manufacture of narcotics and assigning penalties, there is also federal law. In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, which remains the legal cornerstone of the United States' failing War on Drugs.
Pennsylvania and federal laws are largely very similar in what activity they prohibit. Both make illegal the possession of banned drugs. Both ban the distributing, manufacturing, and dispensing of any narcotics. However, federal authorities are usually more likely to prosecute trafficking offenses and large scale operations, with the Commonwealth charging for possession and possession with intent to deliver. However, it is possible to be charged with simple possession in federal court and with trafficking in state court.
Federal drug charges may begin with arrests or raids by the Drug Enforcement Agency. If charged under federal law, you will go through criminal proceedings in federal court and may face time in federal prison. If arrested by police and charged under Pennsylvania law, you will go through prosecution in state court and may face time in state prison or jail. However, your case may be federalized, meaning that the Federal Government decided to adopt your state case.
At Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC, our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys can represent you in both federal and state court.
Both state and federal law divide different controlled substances into "schedules." The schedules are lists of drugs, and punishment for any charges relating to those narcotics may depend on what schedule the drugs associated with the accusations are listed under.
Pennsylvania and federal schedules are similar. Both define their schedules in the same way. The drugs listed as examples below are in under the same schedule under both federal and state law.
Schedule I: Heroin, marijuana, LSD (acid), MDMA (ecstasy)
Under Pennsylvania and federal law, these substances are judged to have no accepted medical use with a high potential for abuse.
Schedule II: Cocaine, methamphetamines (including crystal meth), oxycodone
These drugs have currently accepted medical uses, but with severe restrictions, and a high potential for abuse.
Schedule III: Anabolic steroids, some barbiturates, ketamine, Vicodin
These narcotics have a lesser potential for abuse and a currently accepted medical use.
Schedule IV: Xanax, valium, Klonopin, Soma
The controlled substances in this schedule have a lower potential for abuse and a currently accepted medical use.
Schedule V: Cough suppressants that contain certain amounts of codeine, other prescription drugs
These have the lowest potential for abuse and an accepted medical use.
Simple possession of any controlled substance without a prescription or other legal license to possess is illegal. Though illegal under federal law, most simple possession charges occur with interactions with police — if you are patted down, or the police find the drugs during a stop. Simple possession of any drug other than marijuana is a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law, punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine up to $5,000 for a first offense. Your driver’s license could also be revoked for six months.
Under Pennsylvania law, it is also illegal to possess any tool or equipment that could be used for smoking or ingesting illegal drugs, including bongs and pipes, packaging, storing, cutting or manufacturing narcotics. This is called paraphernalia, and penalties could be up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
If you are accused of possessing a controlled substance and intend to pass it to another person — whether during a transaction or as a gift — the charges are more severe. In Pennsylvania, you may be charged with possession with intent to deliver (PWID). Prosecutors may make the determination to charge you with PWID depending on the quantity of narcotics you are accused of possessing, the way it was packaged, if there were large amount of cash, or anything else that prosecutors can use as evidence that you are a drug dealer.
Penalties for unlawful manufacturing of a drug are the same as PWID.
PWID penalties depend on the schedule the drug falls under, or, sometimes, the specific type of drug. For an opiate, including heroin, you could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. For meth, cocaine and PCP, you face up to 10 years and a $100,000 fine.
For Schedules I, II and III, the charge is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. For Schedule IV, it's also a felony, punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Any Schedule V PWID is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If charged with distributing to a minor, there is a minimum one-year prison sentence.
Laws against trafficking are intended to strike at drug commerce. Trafficking operations could be international — taking drugs across borders — or local. Federal drug charges are most likely to be trafficking. However, there are also state laws against trafficking in Pennsylvania.
Trafficking charges are connected to possessing large quantities of narcotics: more than 100 grams of heroin, more than 5 grams of cocaine base, more than 10 grams of methamphetamines, etc. The more you are charged with possessing, the worse your sentence. Both federal and state trafficking charges carry mandatory minimum sentences, and you could face life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
If you are accused of being a part of a drug operation, whether transporting or working on the business end, you could face conspiracy charges and be subject to the same penalties as if you personally possessed the drugs.
Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC | Philly Drug Arrest Attorney
If you're facing drug charges in Pennsylvania, an aggressive defense may make the difference between decades in prison and walking away free. Our knowledgeable Philadelphia drug defense lawyers at Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC can fight for your rights. Call us today at (215) 665-1695 to set up a consultation.