What are the Penalties in Pennsylvania for Possessing Legal Prescription Drugs?

In the past decade, Pennsylvania state authorities have increasingly expanded their focus from enforcing laws against possession of “street drugs” like marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine to prescription drugs possessed and distributed by those without a prescription and/or license to do so. Several years ago, state law enforcement arrested 22 people in a single bust relating to illegal possession and distribution of 59,000 oxycodone pills obtained from pharmacies and sold across the state. Just this year, another 49 people were arrested in a mass arrest in Chester County relating to the sale of prescription drugs, among other controlled substances. It should go without saying that, given state leader’s stated mission to combat the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, law enforcement is taking an aggressive approach to combatting the illegal distribution of prescription drugs. But what does this mean for people facing possession charges for “legal” prescription drugs without a prescription? The penalties can be quite severe.

You Face Up to One Year in Jail for Possession of Prescription Drugs

Pennsylvania law treats possession of prescription drugs without a prescription in the same way as it treats possession of drugs such as cocaine and heroin, and conviction for possession of a prescription drug can land you in jail for up to one year, along with a $5,000 fine. If you are convicted for a subsequent office, you can be sentenced to jail for up to three years while facing a fine that can go as high as $25,000.

While these criminal penalties are severe enough, you can face much more devastating penalties if prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge you not only with possession but also intent to distribute, based on the amount of prescription drugs possessed and other factors. In such cases, you can be looking at felony charges that can mean up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Defending Yourself in Pennsylvania Possession Charges

Given the steep criminal penalties, it is important therefore to put your best defense forward in any investigation or prosecution related to possession of prescription drugs. Simply stating that you need the drugs for pain or because you are addicted will generally not negate criminal liability, and making such statements to police and prosecutors without an attorney may only serve to incriminate yourself.

Instead, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney in responding to all prescription drug charges and/or investigations. Your attorney can assess your situation in a confidential consultation and determine what types of valid defenses may apply to avoid or lessen criminal liability, including improper police search and arrest procedures, lack of criminal intent, and facts pointing to legal possession. Your attorney will speak on your behalf to all law enforcement and state or local authorities to defend your interests in working towards a closed investigation, not guilty finding, or agreement that limits the criminal penalties you will face.

Speak with a PA Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you are under investigation or have been arrested for possession of a prescription drug, you should take immediate action to defend your rights and avoid criminal penalties by working with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., in Montgomery County, we are committed to defending your rights. Call us today to schedule a consultation with a PA criminal defense attorney regarding your arrest and/or investigation for prescription drug possession.

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