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  • Writer's pictureLaw Offices of Michael E. Moyer

Can You Be Charged With Possession of Drugs that You Do Not Own in Pennsylvania?

Getting caught with illicit drug substances in Pennsylvania, even when they are not yours, is a fast way to land yourself in hot water with the authorities.

If convicted, you can face as much as a year of imprisonment, with fines of $5,000 or more. Additionally, a second possession conviction can result in up to 2 years in federal prison and fines of $25,000 or more.

Avoiding a drug possession charge is so much more than not being caught with drugs on your person. You can still be charged with possession of drugs that you don’t own.

Actual vs. constructive possession in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania law, you can be charged under one of two legal theories: actual and constructive possession.

What is actual possession?

Actual possession is when you’re caught with control or physical custody of drugs. In Pennsylvania law, actual possession implies that you know about the presence of the drugs and have it stashed on your person. This is usually the case if you’re caught with substances when police authorities legally search you.

What is constructive possession?

Constructive possession is a legal theory that refers to situations where the person has no hands-on custody of the drug. This context applies to cases when the person knows the nature and presence of the illegal substance, including the ability and intent to control the substance.

Constructive possession, therefore, implies that you can still be charged with possessing drugs, even if you don’t own them.

Joint vs. sole possession

If a single person has constructive or actual possession of the substance, it is considered sole possession. On the other hand, if multiple persons share constructive or actual possession of the drugs, it is regarded as joint possession.

So, even if you don’t have drugs on your person but are part of an entourage or group with just one person actually caught with the substance, you and the rest of the group can be implicitly charged with joint constructive possession.

What should you do if you’ve been illegally searched?

US law gives you rights against being illegally searched by police officers. A search or seizure is generally considered unreasonable without a warrant, subject to only a few exceptions. To legally search you, the law enforcement officer must demonstrate probable cause that a search or seizure is justified.

If the grounds of their search are unwarranted, you have the right to refuse. Nevertheless, if the officer forcefully proceeds with the search, you should not attempt to prevent them.

Your attorney can then use this knowledge in your defense if you’ve been charged. This is an excellent defense strategy against illegal searches and can be grounds for winning the case.

Possible penalties for drug possession in Pennsylvania

Some of the penalties if you’re convicted of drug possession in Pennsylvania include the following:

  • One year jail time and a $5000 fine for first-time offenders

  • 30 days in jail and up to $500 fine (for possession of less than 30g of marijuana)

  • Up to three years jail time and a $25000 fine for second-time offenders

The exact penalties for drug convictions depend on the type (schedule) of the drug and the quantity found.

What can you do if you’re charged with the possession of drugs that aren’t yours?

In such a scenario, take the following actions:

  • Don’t resist arrest

  • Do not consent to a search

  • Do not answer officers’ questions

  • Immediately ask for an attorney

What are your possible defenses?

Depending on the nature of the case, every bit of information is relevant to help your attorney help you prepare a solid defense. These include the following:

  • Lack of consent to search

  • No knowledge of the substance in your possession

  • No knowledge that the substance was in your possession

Have an expert PA drug lawyer prepare a compelling defense for you

The laws regarding drug possessions are complex, and without apt knowledge, you may unknowingly implicate yourself. If you have been charged with possessing drugs you don’t own, there’s no need to fret. The Law Office of Michael E. Moyer has drug lawyers with expertise in Pennsylvania law who can help you prepare a solid defense. Call us today for a FREE phone consultation.


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