Possession With Intent and Distribution of Controlled Dangerous Substances
Possession with the Intent to Distribute and Distribution of Controlled Dangerous Substances are among the most commonly charged cases in the Circuit Courts of the State. Indeed, thousands of criminal defendants face these serious felony charges each year. These charges carry harsh maximum penalties for those who are convicted. Many of these cases are also among the most complicated criminal cases in the criminal justice system, often involving complex search and seizure, self-incrimination and other Constitutional issues. It is not an exaggeration to say that it can require years if not decades of experience for attorneys to become truly proficient at handling these issues.
In addition to the complicated nature of the legal issues associated with these cases, there is also the minefield of mandatory sentences that often apply and are sought by aggressive prosecutors that must be navigated for a client charged with possession with intent or distribution of narcotics. Once category of mandatory sentences are those that apply to so called “subsequent offender provisions”. Under these laws, second time felony drug offenders may face mandatory 10 year sentences that must be served without the possibility of parole. Third offenders can face as much as 25 years and fourth or subsequent offenses can cause a defendant to face 40 years or more. In addition to the subsequent offender mandatory penalties, there are so called “weight counts”, that require courts to impose sentences for defendants who are charged with possession large amounts of CDS. Under these provisions even some defendants charged with marijuana can face mandatory sentences as long as 5 years if that person is convicted of possessing in excess of 50 pounds. Drug offenders can face mandatory sentences for possession of a pound of powder cocaine or as little as 50 grams of “crack cocaine” or heroin.
There are also substantial mandatory sentences for persons convicted of trafficking controlled dangerous substances with firearms. These counts are among the most aggressively pursued by prosecutors given the level of violence associated with the drug trade. Unfortunately, there is also potential for abuse by prosecutors associated with all mandatory sentences including ones associated with trafficking narcotics with firearms. Most prosecutors understand that these counts were specifically designed to combat violent drug gangs and exercise appropriate discretion in deciding when to and where to file them. There are, however, some prosecutors who view things differently and pursue these sentences in any case where drugs and weapons are recovered from the same place. Some overly zealous prosecutors even pursue these counts in cases where defendants are caught growing their own marijuana for personal use and also happen to own weapons. This is a shocking failure to exercise the discretion contemplated by the legislature when these statutes were enacted but unfortunately, in the increasingly political environment of the criminal justice system, it is becoming more and more common.
Needless to say, for anyone charged with possession with intent to distribute or distribution of controlled dangerous sentences, or any other drug related criminal offense, it is imperative that he or she immediately contact experienced and aggressive criminal attorneys such as the Criminal Defense Team at STSW.