Drugs & Drug Paraphernalia – Felony vs. Misdemeanor Offenses
I’ve written previous articles on different types of drugs and controlled substances such as cocaine, crack, heroine, meth, and marijuana along with the severity of those charges based on their classification or schedule. A drug offense is charged as a felony and or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances surrounding the person’s arrest; specifically the amount of drugs found on a person, paraphernalia, along with the accused person’s actions prior to arrest (observed transactions or sales).
The most common drug and narcotic offense that our firm handles involve the possession or the possession with the intent to deliver the following substances
- Phencyclidine (PCP – aka Angel Dust)
- Methamphetamine (Meth)
In addition to these factors the prosecution will also argue that the paraphernalia found at the time of the arrest is evidence of a more serious charge. For instance, if the person is arrested with a large amount of drugs, cash, and items used to distribute or transfer those drugs this is all strong evidence of a felony charge as opposed to a misdemeanor possession charge in Pennsylvania (The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act – 35 P.S. Section 780-113 (30)) or New Jersey (See 2C: 35-5.)
Drug Offenses & Drivers’ Licenses
While Pennsylvania has amended its traffic code to eliminate a mandatory six (6) month drivers license suspension for any drug offense, New Jersey can suspend driving privileges for any drug conviction. The New Jersey license or driving privilege suspension isn’t mandatory and is at the discretion of the judge (See 2C:35-16). Read my article to learn more about this issue.
Paraphernalia typically associated with Possession With Intent To Distribute or Deliver (PWID)
- large amount of cash or currency
- plastic baggies
- rubber bands
Possession of Drug paraphernalia is actually a separate criminal charge in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and it is sometimes added in addition to the other charges of simple possession and/or possession with the intent to deliver. Paraphernalia typically associated with personal use of drug or simple possession are the following:
- syringes or needles,
- rolling paper,
- and pipes (bongs)
Why Is This So Important – Felony vs. Misdemeanor
Your criminal defense lawyer shouldn’t ignore the drug paraphernalia aspect of your criminal drug case. Focusing simply on the drugs and the arrest is simply the wrong strategy. Issues like reasonable suspicion and probable cause are obviously important to the pre-trial aspects of your criminal case (pre-trial motion to suppress evidence) as are issues like constructive vs. actual possession at trial. It is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to avoid a criminal charge when the prosecution can establish possession and there are no pre-trial suppression issues. A conviction for a misdemeanor however is far less serious than a felony conviction. The law is also changing in Pennsylvania with regards to non-violent misdemeanor convictions like drug possession. While you may not be eligible for an expungement, you may be able to a have your record sealed. Check out my article on this topic. I also encourage you to visit my resource section for more criminal defense strategies.