drug charges

PA Superior Court: Back Seat Passenger Not Automatically in Possession of Drugs and Guns in the Front of Car

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Zak Goldstein

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Zak Goldstein

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has decided the case of Commonwealth v. Parrish, reversing the defendant’s conviction for Possession with the Intent to Deliver (“PWID”), Conspiracy, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Paraphernalia, and gun charges such as Violation of the Uniform Firearms Act Section 6106. In Parrish, the Superior Court found that the evidence was insufficient to convict Parrish of the gun and drug charges because Parrish was merely the back seat passenger in a car which had guns and drugs in the front of the car.  

The Facts of Commonwealth v. Parrish

Parrish involved a motor vehicle stop. Police pulled a car over in Luzerne County for having illegally tinted windows. The vehicle pulled over on command, but as police approached the car, they noticed that it was rocking back and forth as if people were moving around inside of it. They could not see what caused the rocking because of the tinted windows. When the police got up to the car, the driver of the car rolled down the window. The officers immediately smelled marijuana and saw a plastic bag containing marijuana in plain view. They also saw the driver straddling the center console between the two front seats and the grip of a silver handgun protruding from under the front passenger seat. Obviously, that is a strange place for the driver of the car to sit. They saw the defendant, Parrish, seated behind the driver’s seat with his hands on the headrest of the driver’s seat.

Because they saw drugs and a gun in plain view, the officers immediately arrested the driver and Parrish. They searched the entire car. They found a black bag on the passenger side in the front of the car. That bag contained a loaded gun, 250 packets of heroin, 12 packets of methamphetamine, a baggie of loose heroin, two scales, and other drug paraphernalia and ammunition. They found marijuana on the passenger-side door and a .40 caliber handgun protruding from underneath the front passenger-side seat. The glove compartment contained an extra magazine of bullets, and in the trunk, they found a bulletproof vest. They found $1,335 in cash on the defendant and $2,168 on the driver. Parrish cooperated with the police during his arrest. He gave his real name, and he did not attempt to run.

Gun and Drug Charges Based on Constructive Possession

Police charged Parrish with various drug and gun charges, as well as Receiving Stolen Property. Before trial, the court separated the felon in possession of a firearm charge from the remaining charges so that the jury would not be prejudiced by knowing that the defendant had a prior criminal record. The defendant then proceeded by way of jury trial, and the jury convicted him of all charges.

At trial, police testified to the above facts. They also confirmed that Parrish was not the registered owner of the car, and he did not have a key to the glove compartment or trunk. Police also believed that based on the positions of the men in the car, the defendant was probably not the driver. They did not test any of the items for fingerprints or DNA. The Commonwealth also presented an expert witness to testify that based on the totality of the circumstances, the drugs in the bag were likely for sale and possessed with the intent to deliver.

In this case, the defense presented evidence, as well. The defendant called a friend to testify that he had been at a party at the friend’s house all afternoon on the day of the arrest. Parrish stayed at the party until approximately 2 am. The friend then asked the driver of the car to drive the defendant home. When the defendant left the party, he was not carrying a satchel or any kind of bag. The friend also saw defendant lay down in the back seat when the defendant got into the car. The jury convicted the defendant of all charges, and the trial court sentenced him to 88 to 176 months of incarceration in state prison.

The Appeal of the Criminal Case

The defendant filed post-sentence motions for reconsideration of the sentence, for a new trial, and for discovery which the prosecution had apparently not provided prior to trial. The trial court denied those motions, and the defendant appealed to the Superior Court. On appeal, the defendant raised four issues:

  1. whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions,
  2. whether the trial court should have awarded a new trial based on the weight of the evidence,
  3. whether the court abused its discretion in allowing one of the police officers to testify as an expert witness that the fact that there were two guns in the car meant that one probably belonged to the defendant, and
  4. that the sentence was illegal because the court ordered a restitution payment in a case with no victim.

The Superior Court’s Decision

The Superior Court only addressed the first issue because it resolved the case in the defendant's favor. The court noted that sufficiency of the evidence claims involve viewing all of the evidence admitted at trial in the light most favorable to the verdict winner and determining whether there is sufficient evidence to enable the fact-finder to find every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally, a conviction may be sustained entirely based on circumstantial evidence, but a jury is not permitted to simply guess. 

Here, the jury convicted Parrish of both gun charges and drug charges. Both types of charges required the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Parrish possessed the illegal items. Because the items were not physically on him, the prosecution’s case depended on a constructive possession theory. Possession can be found by proving actual possession, constructive possession, or joint constructive possession. Constructive possession exists when the defendant has the power to control the contraband and the intent to exercise that control. It may be proven by circumstantial evidence. At the same time, the defendant’s mere presence at the place where contraband is found or secreted is insufficient, standing alone, to prove that he exercised dominion or control over the items. Location and proximity to contraband alone are thus not conclusive of guilt. Instead, the Commonwealth must be able to prove at least that a defendant knew of the existence and location of the contraband.

Here, the court reversed the conviction because the defendant was sitting in the back of the car and all of the guns and drugs were in the front. Further, the evidence established that Parrish was not carrying any type of bag when he entered the car, he did not have the keys to the car, and he was not the owner or operator of it. There was no evidence that he had ever been seated in either of the car’s front seats. Neither of the recovered firearms was registered to him, and the police had failed to test any of the items for fingerprints or DNA. The Commonwealth also failed to present any evidence whatsoever that the defendant knew of the contents of the black bag in the front because the bag was opaque. The court also rejected the idea that the defendant could have moved from the front of the vehicle to the back due to his height and weight and the size of the vehicle. The court also ignored the testimony of the Commonwealth’s expert witness, which was likely improper, and it ultimately reversed the defendant’s conviction.

Facing criminal charges? We can help.

Philadelphia Criminal Lawyers Zak Goldstein and Demetra Mehta

Philadelphia Criminal Lawyers Zak Goldstein and Demetra Mehta

Constructive possession is an issue that often comes up in gun cases and drug cases. In many cases involving traffic stops, the contraband in the vehicle is not actually physically on the defendant. In these types of cases, there are often defenses based on constructive possession because the prosecution may not be able to prove who in the car, if anyone, possessed the prohibited items. Even where the drugs or guns are in the actual possession of the defendant, there may be constitutional defenses to the search and seizure of the vehicle and its occupants. If you are facing criminal charges or under investigation for contraband recovered during a car stop, we can help. We offer a free criminal defense strategy session to each potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer today.

Recent Case Results - Successful Outcomes in Robbery, Burglary, Probation, Possession, and Sex Crimes Cases

Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers have continued to obtain successful results on behalf of our clients in cases involving sex crimes, robbery, burglary, and Possession with the Intent to Deliver. These successful outcomes have included bail reductions, the dismissal of all charges, favorable results in pre-trial Motions to Suppress, and probationary and house arrest sentences. In the past two months alone, we have achieved a number of wins, including:

Commonwealth v. S.A. - S.A. was charged with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, and related charges. The magistrate initially set bail at an extremely high amount due to the seriousness of the charges, and SA was unable to make bail. Within 24 hours of being retained, Attorney Goldstein obtained a significant bail reduction, and the defendant was able to make bail. After the defendant made bail, Attorney Goldstein was also able to have all charges dismissed at the preliminary hearing.

Commonwealth v. H.S. - Our criminal defense lawyers were able to obtain a full dismissal of all charges in a burglary case against HS at the preliminary hearing.

Commonwealth v. S.V. - Our attorneys were able to obtain a sentence of house arrest and drug treatment for a defendant who was convicted of drug charges. After the defendant was convicted of Possession with the Intent to Deliver, our defense attorneys arranged for the defendant's other open matters, including a case for which the defendant was on probation, to be brought in before the sentencing judge so that the defendant could be sentenced on all of the cases at the same time and only have one back judge. This procedure is called a 701 consolidation, and it can be very helpful in terms of avoiding multiple probation judges and consecutive sentences for a defendant who has violated probation.

Although the sentencing guidelines called for a state prison sentence and the defendant had been on probation at the time of the new arrest, our defense attorneys were able to convince the sentencing judge to give the defendant a chance to serve a house arrest sentence and obtain drug treatment. By investigating the client's background, our lawyers learned that despite being on probation for a similar offense, the defendant had never been ordered to undergo any kind of addiction treatment. Now, instead of serving time in state prison, the client will have the chance to receive treatment in the community, and the Court will also assist the client with obtaining educational and job training.

Commonwealth v S.A. - Attorney Goldstein obtained a full dismissal of all charges in a Robbery case at the preliminary hearing. In this case, the complainant alleged that the defendant had been part of a group that assaulted him and stole his tablet. After the complainant testified that he had been under the influence of prescription medication at the time of the incident and was no longer sure if the defendant had been present, Attorney Goldstein was able to convince the preliminary hearing judge to dismiss all charges. Prior to the preliminary hearing, Attorney Goldstein obtained a significant bail reduction which allowed the client to fight the case from out of custody.

Cmmonwealth v. D.S. - Our attorneys successfully moved for a bail reduction in a felony gun possession case. After the judge at the preliminary hearing refused to reduce bail, Attorney Goldstein immediately moved for a bail reduction in the Court of Common Pleas, and the Common Pleas judge reduced bail from $35,000 to $15,000.

In Re: J.W.: We negotiated an admission to Criminal Trespass in a juvenile delinquency case where the client was originally charged with felony burglary for breaking and entering into a school after hours. After hearing the defense's mitigation evidence and recommendation at disposition (sentencing), the Family Court judge found that the client was not in need of supervision and dismissed all of the charges. The defendant will not even have to be on probation, and the entire record of the case can be expunged.

Commonwealth v. E.G. - All charges dismissed prior to trial in domestic violence case involving Simple Assault and Recklessly Endangering Another Person charges.

Commonwealth v. M.M. - Client was arrested on a potential technical probation violation. Attorney Goldstein filed a motion to lift the detainer and had a hearing scheduled within a week. At the hearing, our defense attorneys convinced the judge to find that the client had not violated the terms of his probation. The client was immediately released the same day.

Commonwealth v. W.L. - The defendant was arrested on a bench warrant due to a failure to show up for court for a preliminary hearing. Our attorneys were able to have the bench warrant lifted without a finding of contempt of court and obtain Sign on Bond bail, meaning the defendant was released without an increase in bail.

Commonwealth v B.M. - We were able to successfully have Possession with the Intent to Deliver PCP and Conspiracy charges dismissed, leaving only charges related to marijuana sales for trial.

Commonwealth v. J.W. - Our defense attorneys obtained the dismissal of charges of selling crack cocaine and conspiracy at a preliminary hearing. The defendant will now face much less serious charges related only to marijuana in a trial in the Municipal Court. A conviction for Possession with the Intent to Deliver of crack cocaine may often involve jail time, whereas even a conviction for PWID of marijuana in the Municipal Court is more likely to result in probation.

Commonwealth v. M.G. - Successfully negotiated Section 17 disposition on drug possession charges. The Section 17 program requires the defendant to plead no contest and be placed on a period of probation. If the defendant successfully completes the probation, then the charges will be dismissed and can be expunged.

Commonwealth v. A.C. - Successfully negotiated for client who was facing assault charges to obtain entry into a Domestic Violence diversion program. If the client pays a small fine, completes a number of counseling sessions, and stays out of trouble for approximately four months, the entire case will be dismissed and can be expunged. Pursuant to the terms of the program, the client was not required to enter into any kind of plea or admission of guilt.

Commonwealth v. J.H. - Successfully negotiated for client's entry into drug treatment court for client facing two cases of Possession with the Intent to Deliver. If client completes the program, the charges will be dismissed and can be expunged, and client will not have a felony record.

Do Police Need A Warrant To Search A Hotel Room?

Police Searches of Hotel Rooms and Other Rented Spaces

Under the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, law enforcement officers need a search warrant anytime they want to search a suspect's private residence with few exceptions. If the police do not obtain a warrant prior to conducting the search of a home, then the owner of the home and any guests who are staying there could potentially have any incriminating evidence which was found in the search suppressed and excluded from trial. This same basic rule requiring police to get a search warrant also applies when police want to search a hotel room. If you are a guest in a hotel, the police cannot search your room without a search warrant. Unfortunately for the defendant in Commonwealth v. Williams, the Superior Court held that the defendant has the burden at the Motion to Suppress hearing of showing that the defendant actually rented or was staying in the hotel room.  

Commonwealth v. Williams

In Williams, the defendant was charged with three counts of Possession with the Intent to Deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, and two counts of possession of a controlled substance. The defendant moved to suppress the evidence because police searched the hotel room in which the drugs were recovered without a search warrant. At the motions hearing, the prosecution established that police officers in Erie, Pennsylvania responded to a 911 call for a shooting on March 18, 2016 at the defendant's home. Once there, police found a dead pit bull, lots of blood, and a man who had been shot in the leg and face. Police did not find any other victims or the shooter, so they began interviewing the neighbors. One neighbor informed police that the defendant lived in the first floor apartment at that location, and he had seen one of the defendant's vehicles leaving the area around the time of the shooting. The officer looked in the window of the apartment and did not see anyone home, so he radioed for the car to be stopped. 

Other officers stopped the defendant in the car which the neighbor had seen. Once stopped, the defendant told police that he had been staying in a nearby a hotel with a friend because of ongoing domestic issues with his girlfriend. He showed the officer a key card for a hotel room, and he told the officer that the key was for room 111. He also told the officer that he was in room 111 at the time of the shooting.

Following this conversation, officers removed the defendant from the vehicle and frisked him. They also frisked the passenger and recovered a gun. At some point, after the conversation had occurred, officers also searched the car for weapons, and during this search, they found that the defendant had taken the hotel key card from his wallet and discarded it in the vehicle. Williams had apparently dropped the card between the driver's side seat and the center console of the vehicle, so the police took it. 

Based on this information, an officer went to room 111 and knocked on the door. When no one answered, the officer went to the front desk and spoke with hotel management. Management informed the officer that the key card was not for room 111 and that the card was actually for room 231. However, the employee did not know who had actually rented room 231. Further, the employee stated that the hotel did not have surveillance footage which would show who had rented the room. 

Apparently concerned that another shooting victim might be in room 231, the officer went and knocked on the door for that room. When no one answered, the officer decided that it was an emergency. Instead of waiting for a search warrant, he used the key card and opened the door. The officer immediately smelled marijuana and found drugs and drug paraphernalia in the room. He did a quick check of the room for shooting victims, and then he obtained a search warrant to recover the drugs and paraphernalia. 

For reasons which are not explained in the Court's opinion, the defense did not challenge the stop and search of the defendant's vehicle or subsequent seizure of the room key. Instead, the defense argued that the drugs in the hotel room should be suppressed because the police were required to obtain a search warrant prior to entering the room. The Commonwealth responded with two arguments. First, the Commonwealth aruged that the defendant failed to establish that Williams had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the hotel room because there was insufficient evidence to show that he had rented or was staying in the room. Second, the Commonwealth argued that the exigent circumstances surrounding the shooting justified the police decision to enter the room without a search warrant because there could have been another victim who needed medical assistance in the hotel room.  

The Exigent Circumstances Exception to the Warrant Requirement

The exigent circumstances doctrine permits law enforcement to enter a house without a warrant during a true emergency. If police reasonably believe that someone is dying inside a home, then the police do not have to wait for a search warrant before entering the home and rendering aid. Of course, if they find something incriminating in plain view during their attempts to render aid, then that evidence wil be admissible at trial. This issue often comes up in cases involving burglary alarms. If a burglary alarm goes off and police do not find anyone at the scene when they arrive to investigate, they may decide to enter the home without a warrant and check for burglars. If they find your drugs and guns inside the house while looking for burglars, it will often be difficult to have that evidence suppressed despite the absence of a search warrant. 

The trial court agreed with the defense and granted the Motion to Suppress. The trial court found that police were required to obtain a search warrant prior to entering the hotel room because a guest in a hotel room has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the room. Further, the court found that the exigent circusmtances exception to the warrant requirement did not apply as police had no real basis for believing another shooting victim to be in the room. Therefore, the court found that even though the drugs were in plain view once police entered the room, the drugs should be suppressed because police only saw the drugs because they illegally entered the room without a search warrant. 

The Superior Court disagreed and reversed the Order granting the Motion to Suppress. The Court found that the defendant failed to establish that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the hotel room. The defendant presented no witnesses, so the Commonwealth's evidence was essentially uncontradicted. Under Pennsylvania law, a defendant who is charged with a possessory offense like Possession of a Controlled Substance has automatic standing; this means that the defendant may always move for the suppression of the items sized. However, in addition to having standing, a defendant who moves to suppress evidence must also have had a reasonable expectation of privacy which was violated by some sort of law enforcement action. If the defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place searched, then it does not matter if the police followed the rules. For example, if the police illegally search your house and find evidence which they wish to use against me, then I would not be able to successfully have the evidence suppressed because I did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your house. If they wanted to use the evidence against you, you would be able to win a Motion to Suppress because it was your house, but I would be out of luck. 

What is a reasonable expectation of privacy? 

The Court noted that a reasonable expectation of privacy exists when an individual exhibits an actual or subjective expectation of privacy and that expectation is one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable. Courts must evaluate the totality of the circumstances in deciding whether a defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the test does not depend solely on the subjective intent or belief of the defendant. Further, prior case law established that although it is the Commonwealth's burden to prove that evidence was obtained legally at a Motion to Suppress hearing, the burden remains on the defendant to show a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

Do the Police Need a Warrant to Search a Hotel Room? 

Pennsylvania law is very clear that a hotel room deserves just as much protection as a private home or office. A registered hotel guest enjoys a legitimate expectation of privacy in a hotel room during the period of time in which the room rental remains valid. However, the expectation ceases to be reasonable after the rental period has ended and/or the guest's right to occupancy has lapsed. A person also does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a room in which they are not staying.

Here, the defendant would have been in much better shape for the Motion to Suppress had he testified that he rented that particular hotel room and believed it to be private. However, he did not do so. Instead, he told police that he was staying in a different hotel room, and he actually tried to discard the key to the room. Further, when police spoke with hotel employees, they were told that the hotel did not know who had rented the room and also did not have any video surveillance which would show defendant staying in that room. Accordingly, the only evidence in the record was that defendant had a key to a room in which he did not admit to staying. Therefore, the Superior Court found that the defendant failed to establish that it was his room and correspondingly that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the room. Police were not required to obtain a warrant prior to the search, so the Court did not even reach the issue of whether emergency circumstances justified the warrantless search. 

The Williams opinion, although intellectually dishonest, illustrates the dangers of relying on the Commonwealth's evidence to establish a reasonable expectation of privacy and constitutional violation on the part of law enforcement. It also shows how unforgiving Pennsylvania's reasonable expectation of privacy doctrine can be compared to New Jersey's much more relaxed standard. Of course, it is obvious from the record that the room had been rented by Williams. A court could have easily inferred, as the trial court did, that it was his room. He had the key, he lied about which room he had rented because he knew there were lots of drugs in it, and the police only searched it because they believed it was connected to him. Indeed, if the prosecution did not believe that it was his room, then they would not have charged him with Possession. It is a certainty that the prosecution will not be withdrawing the charges despite arguing that it was not Williams' room on appeal. 

The Pros and Cons of Testifying as a Defendant in a Criminal Case

Nonetheless, once Williams claimed to have been staying in a different room, he probably needed to testify at the Motion to Suppress hearing in order to establish that it was his room. If he had testified  that it was his room, then the Court would not have been able to find that he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy therein. There is often a great deal of reluctance to call criminal defendants to testify for fear that they will say something incriminating or open the door to some other type of incriminating evidence which would have been otherwise inadmissible. Additionally, if the defendant has prior convictions for certain crimes of dishonesty (burglary, robbery, theft, etc.), then the fact of those convictions may become admissible when the defendant testifies. However, in some cases, it is simply necessary. Here, Williams likely should have testified that it was his room. This is particularly true because the defendant's testimony during a Motion to Suppress hearing may not be used against the defendant at trial even if the Motion is denied unless the defendant testifies to something inconsistent at trial. Therefore, Williams had little to lose by conclusively establishing that it was his room.

Philadelphia Criminal Lawyers Demetra Mehta and Zak T. Goldstein

Philadelphia Criminal Lawyers Demetra Mehta and Zak T. Goldstein

Award-Winning Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers

As always, if you are facing criminal charges, we can help. Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers have won motions to suppress drugs, guns, and other contraband in cases involving car searches, house searches, and searches of hotel rooms. We can help at both the trial and appellate level. Call 267-225-2545 for a free criminal defense strategy session.  

Is it illegal to possess marijuana in Philadelphia?

Information on Marijuana Decriminalization in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Marijuana Possession Lawyers

Philadelphia Marijuana Possession Lawyers

This article will explain the potential consequences for possession of marijuana in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. If you have been arrested for a drug charge or possession of a marijuana, you likely have a number of questions which may not be addressed in this article. Call us at 267-225-2545 for a free criminal defense strategy session and the answers to your questions about marijuana charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

I heard that marijuana is legal in Philadelphia. Can the police arrest me for possessing marijuana?

Although both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have begun to enact medical marijuana laws, the possession of marijuana for personal use anywhere in Pennsylvania and New Jersey remains a crime. However, the City of Philadelphia has taken numerous steps to effectively decriminalize marijuana over the last few years. These steps have significantly reduced the penalties and consequences of being caught with personal use quantities of marijuana for most people. However, possession of marijuana is still on the books as a crime. Unless and until the state legislature decriminalizes marijuana, it is still possible to be arrested for marijuana possession, and it is still a felony under state and federal law to sell marijuana. Likewise, possession of even a small amount of marijuana remains a crime under federal law, and with the change in Presidential administrations, federal authorities have recently signaled that they intend to continue prosecuting people for marijuana-related crimes. 

Philadelphia's Small Amount of Marijuana Program

The first step that the city took to decriminalize marijuana was the creation of the Small Amount of Marijuana ("SAM") program. Under the terms of this program, the District Attorney would ask defendants caught with under 30 grams of marijuana to pay a fine and complete a number of hours of community service. If the defendant successfully completed the program, then the District Attorney would move to dismiss the charges, and the charges could be expunged. If the defendant failed to pay the fine or complete the community service, then the defendant could still proceed with a motion to suppress and/or trial in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. In many cases, our attorneys have been able to negotiate for our clients who are facing marijuana charges to participate in the program and avoid a criminal record. Although conviction for possession of a small amount of marijuana does not typically carry jail time, it is punishable by up to thirty day in jail as well as fines and court costs. Additionally, a conviction for possession of a small amount of marijuana will lead to an automatic six month driver's license suspension through PennDOT even where the marijuana possession did not occur in an automobile.   

Marijuana Decriminalization - Civil Citations for Marijuana Possession

More recently, city council passed a local ordinance allowing police to issue a civil citation to defendants instead of arresting them and charging them with Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana. The ordinance calls for the defendant to pay a $25 fine for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana and a $100 fine if the defendant was caught by police smoking marijuana in public. In most cases, the Philadelphia police will issue the civil citation (or simply throw the marijuana out) instead of arresting someone with a small amount of marijuana, and therefore the citation will not lead to the person having a criminal record or an arrest for drugs showing up on a criminal background check. The ordinance does not apply to the sale of marijuana or to possession of more than 30 grams. It is also still a felony under state law to grow even one marijuana plant. Further, possession of more than 30 grams of marijuana even for personal use may still be charged as Knowing and Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance, which is an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail for a first offense. 

The recent ordinance has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of criminal marijuana prosecutions in Philadelphia. However, it is important to remember that marijuana is still illegal. It is still a felony called Possession with the Intent to Deliver to sell marijuana, and the police have the discretion to arrest someone even for possessing a small amount of marijuana instead of issuing the ticket. In most cases, they do not do so, but they are most likely to make an actual arrest for possession when narcotics officers observe alleged drug sales. If the police believe they observed a person selling marijuana, then the police will often arrest the buyers and charge them criminally instead of issuing the ticket. This serves to document the fact that the buyers actually existed, which will often be used to bolster the prosecution's case in the Possession with the Intent to Deliver trial against the seller. 

Marijuana Is Still Illegal in Pennsylvania

One of the most important things to remember is that because marijuana possession is still a crime under state and federal law, police will often try to claim that they smelled the odor of marijuana or saw marijuana in plain view in order to justify the subsequent search of a defendant or defendant's vehicle. If the court believes that officers smelled marijuana, then the court may deny a motion to suppress if the odor of marijuana led the police to search for contraband. Finally, it is also a crime to drive while under the influence of marijuana or with virtually any detectable level of marijuana metabolite in your blood. Because marijuana metabolites may remain in the bloodstream for thirty days or more, a defendant who used marijuana may be convicted of DUI even if they were not even remotely high at the time of the arrest. 

Our Philadelphia Drug Charges Lawyers Can Help

Despite these positive steps towards marijuana decriminalization, Philadelphia police and law enforcement officers in the suburban counties continue to charge many people both with possessing and selling marijuana. The federal government also continues to aggressively pursue drug traffickers even in cases involving marijuana. If you are facing any type of drug or marijuana possession charge in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, call 267-225-2545 for a free criminal defense strategy session with one of our defense attorneys. There are often defenses to these charges either through the use of pre-trial motions to suppress or at trial. We understand the fear and uncertainty you are likely feeling following an arrest, and we will immediately get to work answering your questions and building a defense to get results for you.