Have you found yourself in a position that leaves you wondering about drug possession and distribution in Washington D.C.? Here is some information that will hopefully better your understanding of your situation.
At Bruckheim & Patel – Washington DC, our lawyers are very experienced in this area. We are dedicated to serving our D.C. community in making sure every defendant has the proper resources and representation for their case.
What is simple possession in DC?
Simple possession of a controlled substance is considered a misdemeanor in D.C. For a first-time conviction, the maximum penalty is 180 days of incarceration and up to a $1,000 fine. If it is not your first time being convicted of possession, the maximum penalty would be double that.
Drug possession in D.C. requires that the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance. This means there are three aspects that must be proven in order to be convicted of simple possession.
The prosecution must prove that the defendant did in fact possess the substance, that the defendant had intent or mens rea, and lastly, that the substance is actually a drug.
What does possession with intent mean in DC?
In D.C., possession with intent means possessing a substance with the intent to distribute to a person(s). It is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant not only possessed the substance but they also had the intent to distribute said substance.
It is important to note that if there is evidence of intent to distribute, prosecutors will initially start with that charge, but that they may decrease the charge on a later date if they don’t have enough evidence, if a plea offer has been accepted, etc.
Simple possession vs possession with intent DC
Simple drug possession charges, excluding marijuana, are considered a misdemeanor in Washington DC. However, possession with the intent to distribute is considered a felony. Because this is a felony, the possibility of conviction, possible sentence, and the case as a whole is much more serious than a misdemeanor case would be considered.
For intent to distribute a substance that is a narcotic or abusive drug classified as a Schedule I, II, or III, can be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years, possibly including a fine. Intent to distribute a substance classified in Schedule IV that is not a narcotic or abusive drug can be sentenced to a maximum of 3 years, possibly including a fine.
If found guilty of intending to distribute a substance classified as a Schedule V, a maximum sentence of a year and a possible fine can be imposed.
What is drug distribution in DC?
Based on the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal for a person in D.C. to (1) knowingly or intentionally (2) distribute, possess, or manufacture with the intent to distribute (3) a controlled substance.
As stated previously, there are three elements that a prosecutor must prove in order to be found guilty of drug distribution in D.C. The first element is establishing intent, otherwise known as mens rea. More specifically, it has to be proved that the defendant was not mistaken of the components of said substance(s).
The second element that must be proven is that the substance is, in fact, listed under the Controlled Substance Act. The Controlled Substance Act highlights substances that people are not allowed to possess without a proper prescription from a doctor. Within this act, there are five different categories, also known as “schedules,” which separate substances based on the severity of the drug and the likelihood of abusing said drug.
The third and final element is to prove that the defendant distributed, possessed, or manufactured the substance with the intent of distributing. Distribution in D.C. can be classified anywhere from a street-corner transaction to simply giving a substance to someone without any exchange or compensation.
How are drugs classified in DC?
The Controlled Substances Act categorizes substances into five sections, otherwise known as drug “schedules.” For this act, there are five different Schedules, I through V. Each is determined by potential of abuse, ranging from dangerous substances down to substances with low potential for abuse. For a better understanding, continue reading below for more specificities.
Schedule I Drugs:
Schedule I substances, drugs, or chemicals are not currently accepted for medical usage and have a high potential of abuse. Some examples under Schedule I would be: heroin, marijuana (cannabis), methaqualone, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), and peyote.
Penalties for possession of a Schedule I drug(s):
If found guilty of distributing, manufacturing, or possessing with intent to make or sell a Schedule I or II narcotic or abusive drug, you could be sentenced up to 30 years in prison and/or up to $75,000 in fines.
One example of a Schedule II drug is cocaine. Being found guilty of possessing a Schedule II drug is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, and possibly a fine up to $1,000. Selling Schedule II drugs considered to be a narcotic or abusive is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, including a possible fine of up to $75,000.
Penalties for possession of a Schedule II drug(s):
If found guilty of selling a Schedule II drug(s) that is considered to be a narcotic or an abusive drug, you can be sentenced up to 30 years in prison, with a possible fine of up to $75,000. However, if the Schedule II drug is not considered to be a narcotic or an abusive drug, you can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison, with the possible fine of up to $12,500.
Drugs that fall under Schedule III have a lower potential for abuse and have been accepted as a form of medical use. Drugs like anabolic steroids and Vicodin, which can both be used to recover from injuries and surgeries within a medical setting, are examples of Schedule III drugs. It is important to note possessing these without a prescription is where it becomes illegal.
Penalties for possession of Schedule III drug(s):
If found guilty of a Schedule III drug(s) you can be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail, along with the possibility of up to a $1,000 fine. If found guilty of selling a Schedule III drug(s) you can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison, with the possibility of up to a $12,500 fine.
Schedule IV drugs are considered to have a lower potential of abuse than Schedule III drugs that may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence. However, Schedule IV drugs are also accepted for medical use, like Alprazolam, also known as Xanax, for example.
Penalties for possession of Schedule IV drug(s):
If found guilty of possessing a Schedule IV drug(s) without a prescription you can be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail, and a possible fine of up to $1,000. If found guilty of selling a Schedule IV drug(s), you can be sentenced to up to 3 years in prison with a possible fine of up to $12,500.
Schedule V substances have a lower potential of abuse, physical or psychological dependence than Schedule IV drugs. Schedule V substances have been accepted as medical use. These substances contain limited quantities of narcotics, for example, cough medicines that contain codeine.
Penalty for possession of Schedule V drugs:
If found guilty of possessing a Schedule V drug(s) without a valid prescription, one can be sentenced up to 180 days in jail with a possible fine of up to $1,000. If found guilty of selling a Schedule V drug(s) you can be sentenced to up to 1 year in prison with a possible fine of $2,500.
What is the law on drug possession in DC?
Being in possession of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor in D.C. A first-time conviction holds a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000. For a second or subsequent conviction, you would serve double that time.
Consequences of drug distribution in DC
If a person is found guilty of a drug offense, their sentence will depend on what schedule level the substance is classified as. For example, a first-time conviction of distributing a Schedule I or II substance can lead up to 30 years in prison along with a fine up to $500,000, if the substance is also classified as a narcotic or being abusive.
Why do you need a drug distribution lawyer?
A criminal defense lawyer’s goal is to inevitably provide a defense that would prove their client’s innocence. Like any charge, especially illegal possession or distribution of drugs, their work entails many things.
A defense lawyer has the duty of making sure the defendant’s rights are protected throughout their case. It is also important that your attorney be educated and experienced for drug distribution and possession cases. Not only will it award the defendant a better outcome, but it will also save money for the defendant in the long run by being properly represented.
Contact Drug Offense Lawyers at Bruckheim & Patel – Washington DC
At Bruckheim and Patel we are devoted to doing all we can in representing our clients in D.C. Drug distribution and possession cases have complexities that require an experienced attorney. To ensure you are properly represented, be sure to call us at 202-930-3464 for a free consultation today.