Possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute is a serious charge under both federal law and the laws in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Moreover, the penalties can be severe. That’s not to say that beating these charges is impossible, however. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you’ll have the best chance of developing an effective strategy to challenge the charges against you.
Elements of Possession With Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute is a crime that breaks down into two parts. To secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove both (1) possession of the drugs and (2) the intent to distribute them.
To prove drug possession, prosecutors need to show that the drugs were in your possession. This can happen with both actual and constructive possession.
If the drugs were actually in your possession, meaning in your pocket, purse, car, or your hand, that is actual possession. You must have known you had the drugs in your possession as well. However, in some cases, even if you had no idea the drugs were in your possession, you may face charges. For example, if you gave your friend Chad a ride to a friend’s house last night and he left a bag of heroin in your trunk, and you had no idea, you may have a valid defense against possession. The prosecutors may argue that you “should have known” the drugs were in the car and your possession, but it’s not an unbeatable argument.
Prosecutors can also prove possession through constructive possession of a controlled substance. If you had the intent and the ability to exercise control over the substance and you knew where it was, that may be enough to prove you had constructive possession. So, constructive possession can happen even if the drugs weren’t on your person or anywhere near you, as long as you had the ability and intent to direct where the drugs would ultimately end up.
Intent to Distribute
Prosecutors aren’t mind readers. Rather, they must prove an intent to distribute based on the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. However, law enforcement will typically assume an intent to distribute drugs if the possessor has more than can be used for personal consumption. Some other indicators may include:
- Large amounts of money
- Messages, texts, or other communications from customers
- Possessing packaging materials
- Observed drug deals
- Drug paraphernalia or scales
- Drugs packaged for sale
Simply possessing a large amount of a drug doesn’t alone prove that you intend to distribute it. There must be other indications that you were planning to distribute the drug.
The timing is also important in proving intent to distribute. The importance of timing means the intent to distribute must occur with the possession. For example, if law enforcement officials and prosecutors point to your plans or communications to sell a large amount of drugs, but you haven’t received a shipment yet, they can’t charge you with intent to distribute. If there’s no possession, then there’s no intent to distribute. However, this scenario could involve charges for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute or attempt to possess with intent to distribute.
Do You Need to Speak With an Experienced D.C. Area Defense Attorney?
If you’re facing charges of intent to distribute drugs in the D.C. area, you need help. These are serious charges, and you don’t want to let your legal issues spin out of control. Whether you made a one-time lapse in judgment or you’ve faced charges before, you deserve access to legal counsel that will fight to provide the best possible outcome for your case.
To discuss your next steps, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Tucker, Nong & Associates right away. Call us in Vienna, Virginia at 703-991-7978, in Rockville, Maryland at 301-637-5392, or contact us online to set up a consultation.