It's easy enough to argue how misguided the "War on Drugs" is. When talking about marijuana, it's that much easier. Cannabis grows on a plant, and can be used unaltered by man. Its negative physiological effects are mild, and it certainly poses no greater threat to society than alcohol or tobacco.
Yet our federal and state governments have chosen to make the mere possession of pot or weed illegal, with even greater penalties for its sale and cultivation. Trafficking marijuana can lead to mandatory minimum prison time and millions of dollars in fees. As a result of our government's crackdown on this harmless plant, great harm has befallen many, and may come to you if you face any kind of marijuana charge.
Philadelphia Marijuana Lawyer
At Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC, we fight for the rights of those facing any kind of charge involving marijuana. An experienced and skilled Philadelphia marijuana defense lawyer can be on your side during this stressful time. We will challenge the prosecution's assertions, arguing to suppress illegally gotten or otherwise inadmissible evidence.
We will work to have your charges reduced or dropped. We are aggressive and will stand up to prosecutors and police. Call us today at (215) 665-1695 to set up a consultation.
We represent those facing marijuana charges in and around Philadelphia, including Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Bucks Counties, and throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Pennsylvania Marijuana Charges Information Center
- Federal Involvement in Pennsylvania Marijuana Charges
- Marijuana Laws in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- Marijuana Possession in Philadelphia
- Defenses to Philadelphia Marijuana Accusations
- Philadelphia Diversion Program
- Marijuana Law Resources
The federal government has a clear role in some criminal prosecution, like international operations that steal money through the federal postal system. It's not clear, however, why the federal government has a role in prohibiting and enforcing criminal penalties on the mere possession of a plant product that a person can literally grow in their back yard — especially when the use of this product has no significant negative effects and, in fact, has some positive medical uses.
But that's exactly what the federal government has done with marijuana. The federal Controlled Substances Act not only prohibits cannabis, it lists it as a "Schedule I" drug. Schedule I consists of drugs that have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and dependency.
While it is rare for federal agents, like those in the Drug Enforcement Agency, to arrest and charge a person with marijuana possession, they may do so, under the law. It's far more common, however, for federal agents to prosecute trafficking marijuana.
Trafficking covers all aspects the commerce of the marijuana trade: cultivation / grow houses, packaging, transporting and distribution of cannabis. What usually elevates mere possession to trafficking tends to be the amount. Penalties are weighed on the amount you are accused of possessing. Trafficking charges have mandatory minimum sentences in federal law.
If convicted of possessing for trafficking purposes 1,000 kilograms or more of a substance with a detectable amount of marihuana, or 1,000 or more cannabis plants, you will face at least 10 years in federal prison and a $4 million fine, for a first conviction. For more than 100 kilograms or 100 plants, you will face a minimum of five years and a $2 million fine.
Pennsylvania has not legalized marijuana for medicinal or any other purpose. But even if the Commonwealth decides to move forward for legalization, even for medical marijuana, the federal government could still raid growhouses and other places that would have cannabis, arrest those involves and send them to federal prison.
Pennsylvania's Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device and Cosmetic Act also lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug. However, there are lesser penalties for possessing 30 grams or less of pot. If convicted, you could face up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $500.
If convicted of possessing more than 30 grams, you could face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. The amount you possess, therefore, matters a great deal. Challenging the prosecutor's evidence, which often consists of marijuana found during an illegal search by police, is, therefore, very important. Having some or all the evidence thrown out because the police should have gotten a warrant could lead to your charges being reduced or dismissed.
If charged with possession with intent to deliver (PWID), which includes the intent to cultivate, transport or sell, you face up to five years in prison and fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Prosecutors may use the amount you possessed, the way it was packaged, if there were any devices or scales that indicated sale, or any alleged behavior against you as evidence that you intended to distribute the weed.
If there are more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana involved, penalties go up to a potential 10 years in jail, and a fine up to $100,000.
It is also a crime under Pennsylvania law to possess paraphernalia. Paraphernalia could range from anything used to smoke or ingest marijuana, like bongs, water pipes and rolling papers, to anything used to sell marijuana, like scales. Possession of marijuana paraphernalia is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana now is a civil offense in the city of Philadelphia. The City Council approved a measure in 2014 that would reduce the penalty from a criminal offense to a civil offense. The city is one of several throughout the country altering its marijuana laws.
In Philadelphia, people who are caught possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana will be cited and fined $25. If a person is caught smoking marijuana in public, he or she will be cited and fined $100, or made to perform nine hours of community service. Additionally, police officers will confiscate any of the substance they find.
The substance still is considered illegal in Philadelphia. This means possessing more than 30 grams and dealing or trafficking the substance regardless of weight still is considered a criminal offense, which could mean a criminal record.
If you are charged with any crime involving marijuana, the most important evidence in the overwhelming majority of cases is going to be the marijuana itself. When the crime being prosecuted is possessing something, the lawyers for the Commonwealth have to prove that that something existed.
Unless you were carrying it around in broad daylight, the marijuana in evidence is usually the result of either a "stop and frisk" or a search. For a stop and frisk, police must have reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime to pat you down.
Searches are invasions into places where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, if a bag of pot is sitting on your car seat, viewable by anyone who walks up to the car, or a plant is growing in your yard, where anyone walking by can see it, you cannot have a reasonable expectation that it is private.
However, if it's a locked glove compartment, the trunk of your car, and certainly in your house, there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. To overcome that, police must show probable cause. In most cases, this requires a warrant.
Your Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can challenge the procedures used to gather evidence. If the prosecution loses its main evidence, it may not have much of a case and be forced to either reduced the charges, or drop them altogether.
Some first-time marijuana offenders may be eligible for a diversion program offered in Philadelphia. Under the diversion program, you are granted probation without a verdict. If you complete your probation, the charges are dismissed.
Prosecutors agree to the program on a case-by-case basis. Your lawyer can help negotiate for the your acceptance into the program, should you decide it is your best option.
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - NORML advocates for decriminalizing the responsible adult use of cannabis.
Philly NORML - Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC | Philadelphia Marijuana Arrest Attorney
If you face any kind of marijuana charges, have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. We fight for the rights of those facing marijuana charges at Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC. A Philly marijuana lawyer from Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC will fight to suppress evidence and seek to have the charges against your reduced or dismissed. Call us today at (215) 665-1695 for a free consultation.