Pittsburgh Marijuana Lawyer
While marijuana use is generally acknowledged to be widespread, and some states have dramatically lessened the criminality of marijuana use, Pennsylvania still treats marijuana as a serious drug, and activity that involves it is a serious drug offense. Possession is considered a less serious crime than distribution, sale, etc., but even the least severe charges carry criminal penalties; conviction can complicate your life in many ways, including making it harder to find and keep employment. Hiring a skilled Pittsburgh marijuana lawyer like Gary Gerson can help you maintain a clean record or lessen penalties.
You may also be charged under federal law, since the United States also criminalizes possession and sale of marijuana on federal property and in interstate commerce.
Simple Marijuana Possession
Pennsylvania law treats possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor with relatively mild penalties if small amounts are involved:
- For 30 grams or less, a maximum sentence of 30 days and a fine of up to $500
- For more than 30 grams, a maximum sentence of one year and a fine of up to $5,000
These are criminal convictions that can be held against you in various ways; and just as importantly, even a lenient penalty like probation means that your future behavior is scrutinized for the period of probation. Behavior that violates the conditions of your probation can still lead to more serious penalties, even if that behavior isn’t itself a crime. That’s one of the unfortunate consequences of having been sucked into the criminal justice system and a reason why it’s a good idea to hire a marijuana defense attorney even for mild penalties.
Possession with Intent to Distribute (PWID)
This more serious offense can lead to very harsh sentences. While PWID 30 grams or less remains a misdemeanor if the distribution is not for compensation, PWID larger amounts are felonies, with sentences varying according to the amount of marijuana involved, with PWID of more than 1,000 pounds punishable by up to 10 years and a fine of $100,000.
Fines can be increased to ensure the defendant losses all profit from the drug dealing. Enhanced sentences may be given for activity close to schools and playgrounds.
In addition to the harsher sentences, PWID convictions get you labeled a “drug dealer” in the community. Many people don’t understand how many different ways that can affect your life, from employer reluctance to hire you to the reluctance of many people to simply be friends with you.
Cultivation of Marijuana
It is illegal to grow any amount of marijuana in Pennsylvania. Growing a single plant is punishable. Plants grown by the defendant justify charges of simple possession or, if the number of plants justified the presumption of a commercial operation, charges of possession with intent to distribute.
Defenses to Marijuana Charges
̶ Legality of the Search and Seizure
For any law enforcement agency to charge you with a marijuana offense, they had to have “seized” the drug at some point, had it tested to determine that it was marijuana, and had the seized amount weighed to see if the weight justified the specific crime charged. In most cases, there was a search that produced the drug that was seized. Since the constitution and the laws of criminal procedure protect people from searches and seizures that are unreasonable, an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer will scrutinize the actions of the police to ensure that they complied with their legal obligations; if not, the evidence—the drugs—may be excluded from use in court. Unless the prosecution has other evidence of the crime, that ends the case.
̶ Proof of Possession
In many cases, there’s a question about whether the circumstances support the law enforcement claim that the defendant was ever in “possession” of the marijuana. Is there possession when the defendant was driving a car in which the marijuana was found? How about if the defendant was just a passenger and the marijuana was found under the seat he was in?
̶ The Amount of Marijuana
The amount of the drug that was seized can affect the specific charge. If 30-plus grams of marijuana is the threshold for a charge, and the state claims that 31 grams were seized, is there factual reason to question whether the state’s measurement is accurate?
Get Help in Fighting a Marijuana Charge from an experienced Pittsburgh Marijuana Lawyer
Charges of sale, distribution, or transportation of drugs threaten your future and the future of your entire family. Get the help of an experienced Pennsylvania marijuana lawyer and get it as soon as possible. If you have been charged with a marijuana offense in Pittsburgh or anywhere in Western Pennsylvania, call attorney Gary Gerson today. Gary offers more than 25 years of experience as a dedicated criminal defense attorney in both state and federal courts and is committed to defending your rights as a person accused of a drug-related crime. Call today.