A mandatory minimum sentence is the least amount of time a convicted defendant must spend in prison. Sentences are often imposed as a range of years, and a mandatory minimum sentence is the lowest end of this range. Defendants convicted of drug possession in Pennsylvania may face a mandatory minimum sentence.
The precise mandatory minimum sentence for possession depends on several variables. We must consider the Schedule of the controlled substances involved, the weight or amount of drugs, and other aggravating factors. Mandatory minimum sentences are very rigid, and a court will typically not impose a lesser sentence even if it wants to.
Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you if you face drug possession charges. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.
How Are Mandatory Minimum Sentences Determined in Pennsylvania?
There are numerous factors to consider before determining a mandatory minimum sentence for alleged drug possession.
Issues like the Schedule of the controlled substance in your case will weigh heavily on your mandatory minimum sentence. There are five different Schedules, and they come with different mandatory minimums. The mandatory minimum sentence for possession of marijuana will be different than the one for cocaine or meth. Similarly, the weight of these substances plays a significant role. Defendants with prior convictions for drug possession or trafficking will also face higher mandatory minimums.
Mandatory minimum sentences apply to charges for possession with the intent to distribute (PWID) but not to charges for simple possession. In simple possession cases, the weight of the alleged controlled substances is often not considered at sentencing. Talk to our Bucks County criminal defense lawyers for more information.
Sentencing for Simple Possession in Pennsylvania
Drug possession may be charged as simple possession or possession with the intent to distribute. The key difference is what the substances are being used for. Controlled substances held for one’s own personal use will likely lead to simple possession charges. However, a greater amount of controlled substances may lead investigators to suspect the substances are meant for sale or distribution, and greater penalties with mandatory minimum sentences will be assessed.
Simple possession involves knowingly possessing or having control over a controlled substance by someone not legally permitted to do so. This can include street drugs or prescription medications. Simple possession is typically charged as an ungraded misdemeanor and does not require minimum mandatory sentences. For simple possession charges, a defendant could get probation or enter a diversion program if the court allows.
The Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Drug Possession with Intent to Deliver Charges in Pennsylvania
The penalties for PWID, including mandatory minimum sentences, can be found under 18 Pa.C.S. § 7508. The statute explicitly states that no court has the authority to impose a sentence less than what is contained within the statute. This means that a convicted defendant will not have the possibility of probation, parole, or work release until the mandatory minimum sentence has been served.
A defendant found guilty of having at least 2 pounds of marijuana in their possession but less than 10 pounds, or at least 10 live marijuana plants but less than 21, will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If the defendant has been previously convicted of another drug trafficking offense, the mandatory minimum sentence increases to 2 years in prison, and the fine goes up to $10,000.
For defendants convicted of possessing at least 10 pounds of marijuana but less than 50 pounds, or having at least 21 live plants but less than 51, the mandatory minimum sentence is 3 years in prison and a fine of $15,000. A defendant with a prior conviction will instead face 4 years in prison and $30,000 in fines.
For convictions involving at least 50 pounds of marijuana or 51 live plants, the defendant faces 5 years in prison and a fine of $50,000. Talk to our Pennsylvania drug possession defense lawyers about your marijuana case today.
Schedule I and II Controlled Substances
Defendants guilty of possessing at least 2 grams but less than 10 grams of a Schedule I or II controlled substance will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison term of 2 years and pay a fine of $5,000. If there are prior convictions, the sentence is 3 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
If a defendant is convicted of having at least 10 grams but still less than 100 grams, they face a mandatory minimum term of 3 years in prison and a fine of $15,000. The defendant faces 5 years in prison and $30,000 in fines if they have previous convictions for drug trafficking.
Finally, if the defendant is convicted of possessing at least 100 grams of a Schedule I or II controlled substance, they face 5 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. The penalties increase to 7 years in prison and a $50,000 fine if they have previous drug trafficking convictions.
For possession of crack cocaine, powder cocaine, or a substance derived from cocaine, convicted defendants face 1 year in prison and a fine of $5,000 for possession of at least 2 grams but less than 10 grams. The penalty goes up to 3 years in prison and a $10,000 fine with a previous conviction.
When the weight of the drugs is at least 10 grams but less than 100 grams, the mandatory minimum sentence is 3 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. In cases of previous drug trafficking convictions, the defendant faces 5 years in prison and a $30,000 fine.
If a defendant is convicted of drug possession for at least 100 grams of cocaine, they face a minimum sentence of 4 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. If they have a previous conviction on their record, the mandatory minimum term is 7 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Possession of at least 5 grams but still less than 10 grams of meth will lead to a mandatory prison term of 3 years and a fine of $15,000. If the defendant has a previous conviction for a drug trafficking offense, the penalty increases to 5 years in prison and a fine of $30,000.
If the total weight of the drugs was at least 10 grams but less than 100 grams, the defendant will face 4 years in prison and pay a $25,000 fine. The defendant instead faces 7 years in prison and a $50,000 fine if they have previous convictions.
For convictions of possession of at least 100 grams of meth, the defendant will be sentenced to a mandatory term of 5 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Defendants with previous convictions will face 8 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
If you are charged with drug possession of any kind, call our Northeast Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys for help right away.
Contact Our Pennsylvania Drug Possession Defense Attorneys for Help
Our Delaware County criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your charges. Call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171 for a free case review.