The People’s Lawyer

Possession of drugs and possession with intent to distribute

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2019 | Criminal Defense

What’s the difference between the possession of drugs and possession with the intent to distribute?

Legally speaking, a simple possession charge — while still nothing to ignore — isn’t as serious as a charge of possession with the intent to distribute. Practically speaking, the difference may be more opinion than anything.

Imagine this circumstance: For whatever reason, the police get a warrant and search your home. They discover an ordinary kitchen scale — the kind people may use to measure food portions while they’re on a diet — along with a bag of marijuana and some rolling papers. Even though the marijuana was meant for your personal use, the police decide that the quantity of the drug, the scale and the rolling papers show that you intend to sell the drugs to others.

This is, unfortunately, a fairly common situation. Many houses have ordinary items that could be connected to the drug trade — at least in the minds of law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

In West Virginia, a first-time possession charge for marijuana is treated as a misdemeanor offense. It’s punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Dealing marijuana, however, is a felony act. That means potential punishment ranges between one and five years in prison and $15,000 in fines.

Understanding the charges against you — and how the police or prosecutor decided on them — is the first step toward effective assistance in your own defense. In many cases, prosecutors will try to press for the most severe charges they can in order to make a “deal” seem better to the defendant. To best protect your rights (and your future), it’s wise to have an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner.