When police officers say that they found drugs in someone’s possession, they use the amount to determine intent. In other words, someone who had enough only for personal use likely would not face charges with intent to distribute. On the other hand, someone who had a huge amount of the drug could face charges with intent to distribute.
This is important because an intent to distribute charge can bring much more serious consequences than a possession charge alone. This is true even if the charge focuses on prescription drugs versus drugs such as heroin.
A charge does not mean a conviction
If police charge you with possession and intent to distribute, that does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. For example, a defense lawyer might find that police lacked probable cause or made an arrest without a warrant. So, it is important to stay calm, to say nothing and to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible. If you are charged with possession only and it is your first time, you might be eligible for pretrial diversion.
An even more serious charge could be drug trafficking. Convictions result in minimum sentences of three years. The maximum is life in prison.
It can be frustrating to get charged with a drug offense when the possession was constructive (versus active). In constructive cases, it is possible you did not even know drugs were present. For example, if you were at a party, police showed up and found drugs in the desk you were standing next to, you could be the first person they look at because you were closest to the desk. If you happen to have a criminal record, police may look no further and laser in on you as the sole guilty party.
Drug charges, whether they are about possession, intent to distribute, trafficking, sale or delivery, are serious. An attorney can help advocate for you.