An Introduction to Washington DC Drug Lawyer
Retaining an Experienced Washington DC Drug Attorney
In the District of Columbia, drug charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony based on various circumstances. Unlike many jurisdictions, however, the D.C. court system tends to treat drug possession with a goal of and focus on treatment rather than incarceration.
That being said, one can end up incarcerated in Washington, DC, for drug crimes. Under the DC code, there are three basic types of drug offenses: possession, possession with intent to distribute, and distribution.
Simple possession of drugs for personal use for most illegal narcotics is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
No matter what type of criminal charges or allegations you face, retaining a D.C. criminal defense attorney is the most critical decision you can make after getting arrested.
At Scrofano Law P.C., we focus on criminal defense and have experience defending criminal charges in various practice areas, ranging from domestic violence offenses, gun and drug offenses, as well as federal criminal cases.
The Importance of Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
When you choose to retain our firm, you get more than just legal representation; you get a team of dedicated professionals who will fight tirelessly to defend your rights and liberties. You need someone who has extensive knowledge of drug crimes laws and can navigate the court system.
We know what it’s like to go through a criminal investigation and trial. Our attorneys have represented clients in both state and federal courts. We have handled hundreds of drug cases throughout the United States.
We take pride in providing quality legal services to each client. Whether you are accused of simple possession or dealing large amounts of drugs, we provide aggressive advocacy and effective strategies to achieve favorable results.
Our experienced attorneys will make sure you receive all of the benefits of an excellent criminal offense lawyer. They will investigate the facts of your case thoroughly and develop a strategy to ensure you receive the best possible outcome.
What Is a Controlled Substance?
A controlled substance is a substance or a drug that is regulated under existing federal law within Schedule I through Schedule V of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Schedule I controlled substances are the most strictly regulated.
Unlike other jurisdictions, the District of Columbia treats drug-related offenses differently. For example, penalties may not be calculated based only on the amount of the controlled substance. D.C. also takes into account other factors, including:
- Where the drugs were found
- Their intended use
- What kind of substance is found
In Washington, DC, it’s illegal to have any controlled substance unless you have a prescription for it or you obtained it with legal authorization. Methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and oxycodone are just controlled substances.
However, although medical and recreational use of marijuana is legal, there are certain limits. For example, if you are under 21 and you have less than 40 grams of marijuana, you could end up being charged with a misdemeanor. Most other drug-related possession charges are felonies.
Facing a felony charge and criminal investigation may change your life. That’s why it’s essential to hire a Washington DC criminal defense attorney who can help you understand the charges you are facing, restore your freedom and reputation.
No matter how complex your case may be, Washington, DC, drug lawyers at Scrofano Law P.C. are here for you.
Defining Drug Possession
The law in the District of Columbia defines possession in two ways. First, “actual possession” occurs when an individual has actual physical possession of the drugs. The most common example is the drugs being found in an individual’s pocket or a backpack they are carrying.
However, not all scenarios fall into this category of possession. What happens if the police search a vehicle and find drugs in the backseat and three people are in the car? How do the police determine who the drugs belong to?
This situation may also occur when, for example, the driver gets arrested for DUI, and the police also find drugs in the car.
A similar situation may occur when police execute a search warrant in a residence where more than one person lives or are present during the search.
When these situations occur, the government proceeds on a theory of “constructive possession.” Under the theory of constructive possession, the government must prove that the defendant:
- Knew about the drugs
- Had the ability to exercise control over them
How Does Proving Constructive Possession Work?
To prove constructive possession, the government will look to various types of evidence.
For example, did the defendant or other witnesses make statements that show ownership of the contraband? If the items are found in plain view, the government can usually argue that the defendant knew about the illegal substance.
If forensic evidence like fingerprints or DNA exists on the contraband and matches the defendant, that can be powerful evidence of constructive possession. The evidence can prove that the defendant exercised control over the drugs by touching them at least once.
Another type of evidence is having exclusive or limited access to where the drugs are found.
For example, police searched a residence and found drugs in a lockbox. Then they search the resident of the property and find a key to the same locker in that person’s pocket. That would constitute robust evidence of knowledge and intent to control the drugs.
Work with the Best DC Attorney for Drug-Related Offenses
Any criminal charge, even a misdemeanor, can have serious legal consequences.
As soon as you face a Washington, DC, drug charge, it’s essential to reach out to a skillful drug lawyer. Penalties for drug charges can vary depending on the details of the case, type of the substance, and criminal history of the charged individual.
For example, if you are convicted of manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to make or sell a Schedule I narcotic or abusive drug, you could spend up to 30 years in jail and pay up to $75,000.00 in fines.
However, if you are convicted of the same crime, but for Schedule I, II, or III substances that are not considered abusive drugs, you would be facing up to five years in prison and up to $12,500.00 in fines.
That is why it is essential to hire a defense lawyer who has experience handling these cases.
Knowledgeable Washington DC defense attorney can tell you all potential outcomes, fight to defend your rights, and achieve the most favorable result. Washington DC drug attorneys at Scrofano Law P.C. can build a powerful defense, no matter what charges you are facing.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
For simple drug possession cases, the government will often agree to diversion, including some combination of community service, drug treatment, or both.
Diversion allows criminal defendants to resolve cases without a plea or trial. The government requires the defendant to complete conditions, and if the defendant complies, the government will dismiss the case.
D.C. Superior Court also has a specialized court for some eligible defendants called drug court that allows for successful drug treatment to lead to getting the charges dismissed.
However, possession of PCP in D.C. is treated more seriously than other types of drugs. The DC City Council passed a law that made possession of PCP in its liquid form a felony. Many PCP users dip cigarettes or joints into the liquid and sell the cigarettes individually.
Accordingly, the law assumes that if someone has it in liquid form, they intend to sell it. However, for other illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, etc., simple possession is not enough to charge someone with a felony.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute is a felony in D.C. Possession with intent to distribute means precisely that: possession of illegal drugs with the intent to sell or give them away.
To prosecute someone for possession with intent to distribute, the government needs “indicia of sale” to demonstrate the drug possessor’s mindset is beyond just wanting to use the drugs.
Some examples of indicia of sale include:
- Large quantities of the drug
- Possessing a large amount of cash upon arrest
- Possessing drug paraphernalia
- Statements or actions are demonstrating an intent to sell.
Finally, the law does not distinguish whether you sell or give away the drugs for free. Both scenarios are considered “distribution.”
Distribution of a Controlled Substance
The distribution of a controlled substance is the most serious drug offense.
For distribution, the police must witness or catch the person in the act of selling or distributing the drug. These cases typically involve an undercover officer purchasing from a suspected drug dealer and then making the arrest.
Given recent changes in marijuana law in D.C., the rules are different if the substance is marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
However, DC has legalized possession of a certain quantity for individuals in the city. Accordingly, the D.C. crime of possession of marijuana no longer exists, but the federal crime exists. It is still illegal to sell marijuana in D.C. and smoke it publicly under D.C. laws.
But, it is not illegal to give small quantities of it away for free. That creates a confusing legal environment for District residents. Unfortunately, until greater acceptance of marijuana possession occurs on the federal level, that is just the way it is.
Contact a D.C. Drug Lawyer As Soon As Possible
Drug offenses in Washington, DC, are serious. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, a conviction can carry jail time, probation, and fines.
In addition, the stigma of having a drug conviction on your record can often lead to collateral consequences for your future. It’s crucial to consult with a D.C. drug attorney who can fight to protect your rights and advise you of the best course of action to take in your case.
Criminal defense attorneys at Scrofano Law P.C. can provide a full consultation and case evaluation. Our experienced, aggressive drug defense lawyers are here to help and represent clients throughout the DMV area.
Contact us if you or a friend or loved one has been arrested for a D.C. drug crime or has questions about D.C. marijuana laws.
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