Possession of a Controlled Substance – Pennsylvania



Pennsylvania crimes involving drugs and controlled substances are located in The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. The law prohibits, among other acts, the following:

  • The manufacture, sale or delivery, holding, offering for sale, or possession of any controlled substance, other drug, device or cosmetic that is adulterated or misbranded.

35 P.S. 780-113(a)(1)

Grading and Penalties.
Imprisonment up to 1 year
Max fine of $5,000.00

  • The acquisition or obtaining of possession of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.

35 P.S. 780-113(a)(12)

Grading and Penalties.
If Schedule I or II drug: Felony
Imprisonment up to 15 years
Max fine of $250,000.00.

  • Knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled or counterfeit substance by a person not registered under this act, or a practitioner not registered or licensed by the appropriate State Board, unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription order or order of a practitioner.

35 P.S. 780-113(a)(16)

Grading and Penalties.
Imprisonment up to 1 year
Max fine of $5,000.00

  • The possession of a small amount of marijuana only for personal use, with the intent to distribute it but not sell it or distribution of it but not for sale. Thirty (30) grams of marijuana or eight (8) grams of hashish shall be considered a small amount of marijuana.

35 P.S. 780-113(a)(31)

Grading and Penalties.
Imprisonment up to 30 days
Max fine of $500.00

  • The use of, or possession with intent to use, drug paraphernalia for the purpose of planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packing, repacking, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.

35 P.S. 780-113(a)(32)

Grading and Penalties.
Imprisonment up to 1 year
Max fine of $2,500.00


While each of the above offenses can be charged separately, there are a number of criminal defenses that may be utilized to effectively defend against them with the help of an experienced attorney.

  • Illegal Stop
  • Illegal Detention
  • Illegal Search
  • Invalid or Deficient Search Warrant
  • Lack of Possession
  • Lack of Knowledge or Intent


Generally, our U.S. Constitution prohibits an “unreasonable” search and seizure. An unreasonable search and seizure by a law enforcement officer is a search and seizure without a search warrant and without probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is present. Any evidence obtained from an unlawful search cannot be introduced in court. There are searches that can be legally conducted, however, without a warrant:

  • Consent. The police do not need a warrant if they show up at your door and ask to come inside to search for drugs and you consent.
  • Emergency. Police do not need a warrant in emergency situations (e.g. police are chasing an armed suspect and they need to search homes to find him because the suspect is putting residents at risk.)
  • Searches incident to arrest. After a person has been arrested by the police, officers may conduct a search of the person and his immediate surroundings for weapons that may be dangerous to the officers or others.
  • Plain view. Police do not need a search warrant to seize evidence that is in plain view of place where the police are legally authorized to be.


Section 17 of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act provides a mechanism for resolution of certain drug offense cases. This section allows the court to place a person on probation without verdict if the person pleads nolo contendere or guilty to any non-violent offense and the person proves that he is a drug dependent. Proving drug dependency is a requirement that varies from county to county. In counties that have stringent rules, a person must present the testimony of a physician or psychologist trained in the field of drug abuse. When a person is placed on probation without verdict, he or she is placed on probation for a specific time period not to exceed the maximum for the offense to which he or she is charged. Some individuals are ineligible for probation without verdict such as any person who has been previously convicted of an offense under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, a person who has been previously convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, or a person who was previously placed on Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition. When an individual fulfills the terms and conditions of probation, the court will discharge the person and dismiss all charges against him or her. The charges will automatically be expunged.


The experienced drug possession lawyers at The Martin Law Firm, P.C. offer a free case evaluation for anyone charged with violating the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act. Contact us today at 215-687-4053.