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How possession becomes a felony?

Federal and Virginia authorities take drug crimes seriously. The focus seems even more intense lately because of the rising problem with overdoses and deaths related to opioid use. Police and drug enforcement agents work diligently to seek out and bring down individuals and organizations that put these drugs on the street, and that means those convicted of distributing drugs can expect to face harsh penalties.

If you have recently been arrested for drug crimes, you may wonder how a possession charge can become possession with intent to distribute. This additional element of the crime has serious ramifications and potentially life-changing consequences. It is important that you understand what you are facing and the options available for building your defense strategy.

Understanding the charges

Possession of a controlled substance is a charge that means police found illegal drugs on you, such as in your pocket, purse or coat. However, it can also mean that the drugs were allegedly in your vehicle or your home when police searched. You do not have to have them physically on you as long as police believe the drugs are in your control. You must also have known or should have known the drugs are present, and this is something the prosecution may have difficulty proving.

However, the felony charge of intent to distribute involves the authorities' assumption of what you planned to do with the drugs allegedly in your possession. Police may conclude you intended to sell or distribute the drugs if the following factors exist at the time of your arrest:

  • Police claim to find a substantial amount of the drug, which is more than one would possess for individual use.
  • Investigators report finding materials frequently used for packaging drugs, such as plastic baggies.
  • You are allegedly in possession of a large amount of cash.
  • Witnesses, such as drug customers, point to you as their supplier.
  • Police say they have information that you and others conspired to receive and sell drugs.

However, even if police claim to have evidence of a conspiracy, unless you have possession of the drugs at the time of the arrest, prosecutors cannot charge you with possession with intent to distribute. This may be an important factor for your defense. In fact, you may find that a skilled defense attorney can examine the evidence and find the weaknesses in the case against you. Because of this, you would be wise to seek legal representation before you answer any questions.

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Ronald E. Smith, P.C.

criminal defense & Social security disability law

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