Lessons from the PA State College drug bust for those facing drug offenses

State college police assisted the Pennsylvania State Police North Central Strike Force United in a state police raid near Lemont Elementary School on April 23, 2014. The raid led to the confiscation of cocaine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and thousands of dollars in cash according to a report by StateCollege.com. This led to the arrest of two individuals, one is facing 12 drug charges, the other is charged with 3.

This case highlights the seriousness of drug charges in Pennsylvania. These individuals will likely face some felony charges, but it is important to be aware that even relatively minor drug misdemeanors can come with harsh penalties.

Drug charges in Pennsylvania can lead to serious penalties

Although some states are starting to make it legal to possess and use small amounts of marijuana, Pennsylvania is not one of them. Some Pennsylvania legislators are currently considering sponsoring a medical marijuana bill, but the recreational use has yet to receive much support. As a result, possession of even a small amount of marijuana can lead to serious penalties.

Drug offenses in Pennsylvania range in severity, and can include:

  • Imprisonment. Pennsylvania state law allows for prison sentences to be issued in various drug crimes. The length of the sentence depends on the severity of the charges. Those who are charged with possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana can face up to 30 days imprisonment. Possession of other narcotics and larger amounts can lead to substantially longer sentences.
  • Monetary fine. A fine of up to $500 can be issued for those who are found in possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana. Fines can exceed $250,000 for possession of certain other illegal narcotics. Again, the amount depends on both the type and amount of drug found in possession at the time of arrest.

It is important to note that these penalties are constantly in flux as the laws often change.

Criminal penalties are not the only negative impact of a drug conviction

Criminal penalties are only the beginning if a drug charge becomes a drug conviction. A drug conviction shows up on one's criminal record. As a result, anyone convicted of this crime would likely have to disclose the charges on employment applications, rental applications and even applications for scholarships.

A charge does not necessarily lead to a conviction. A variety of defenses are available for those charged with the commission of these crimes. Defenses can include that the drug did not belong to the defendant, that there was a lack of intent or that the officer who conducted the search leading to the discovery of drugs violated the person's constitutional rights. These defenses could lead to a reduction or even, in some cases, a dismissal of the drug charges.

Knowing which defense is best depends on the particulars of each individual case. As a result, those charged with these crimes should contact an experienced State College drug crime defense lawyer.