There are a myriad of Federal, State and City laws enacted to criminalize the possession of certain intoxicating substances, both illicit drugs and prescription medications in certain situations. Depending on the substance, unlawful possession may result in a felony or misdemeanor charge. Possession of an illegal substance may result in a Possession of CDS charge, Possession of CDS with Intent to Distribute or Trafficking charges.
Unlawful Possession of Controlled Dangerous Substances
A person may be found guilty of simple possession if it is determined beyond a reasonable doubt that they knowingly and intentionally possess an illegal substance. The possession may be actual possession or constructive possession. A person is in constructive possession of an illegal substance if they are not in actual possession of it, but have the power to control the distribution and use of the substance.
Possession With Intent
A person may be charged with the intent to distribute a substance if they are in possession of the substance, and additionally possess other items indicating an intent to distribute the illegal substance. Common items used to establish an intent to distribute are: drugs stored in multiple packages, scales and baggies used in the packaging of a substance for distribution, text messages and voice mails discussing transactions, and notebooks documenting transactions.
It is considered Trafficking in Dangerous Substances to possess an illegal substance in an amount greater than a threshhold amount. In the case of marijuana the amount is 25 pounds, but in the case of other substances the amount is much less. Possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine, or 10 grams or more of heroin, or 20 grams or more of methamphetamine may result in trafficking charges. The punishment ranges are much more severe for trafficking charges as opposed to simple possession, and there are often prohibitions on suspended sentences and mandatory terms of imprisonment.
The stigma of being convicted of a drug possession offense will likely affect a person’s employment prospects and personal relationships for many years. For a person charged with unlawful drug possession or distribution, it is crucial to be represented by an attorney who understands the complex area of 4th Amendment Search and Seizure law. There are many situations that result in an unreasonable, and therefore illegal, search and sometimes subsequent seizure of people’s homes, places of business or vehicles. For people with inadequate representation, their constitutional rights will not be protected and the improper actions of the police will go unchallenged. Evidence that is obtained through improper means should be suppressed and ruled inadmissible, effectively destroying the government’s case resulting in a dismissal.