What is Knowing and Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance (“K&”I)?
Knowing and Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance, often referred to as simple possession, is a criminal charge which is typically brought when a defendant is accused of possessing illegal drugs for personal use. It typically involves smaller quantities of drugs. For example, the possession of a couple of packets of crack cocaine or heroin could lead to a simple possession charge, whereas the possession of a larger number of packets could lead to a Possession with the Intent to Deliver charge.
Sentencing and Penalties for Misdemeanor Drug Possession in Philadelphia
Knowing and Intentional Possession of a controlled substance is always graded as a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania regardless of the controlled substance in question. Thus, the penalties are the same for simple possession of crack, heroin, PCP, and all other drugs. A first offense K&I conviction may be punished by up to a year in jail or a year of probation, court costs and fines of up to $100,000, and a six month driver’s license suspension. A second offense could result in up to three years in jail or three years on probation and a 12-month driver’s license suspension as well as a $200,000 fine. Although the maximum potential jail time does not increase for a third or subsequent offense, the mandatory driver’s license suspension upon conviction will increase to two years of a suspended driver’s license.
Defenses to Knowing and Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance Charges
There are often defenses to Knowing and Intentional Possession charges. Potential defenses include:
Diversionary Programs. Philadelphia offers a number of diversionary programs for defendants with no record or less serious records which could allow you to keep a conviction off of your record and even have all record of the arrest expunged. For example, Philadelphia prosecutors often offer a program called the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program. Pursuant to this program, the defendant typically pleads no contest, pays a fine of around $240, and must complete community service and drug counseling. If the defendant completes all of the requirements of the program, the case could be dismissed in sixty days. At that point, the defendant could file for an expungement to have the arrest records destroyed. Philadelphia often offers the Section 17 program in some cases to defendants who were not eligible for the Accelerated Misdemeanor Program. Section 17 allows the defendant to plead no contest, serve a year of probation, and have the case dismissed upon the successful completion of the probation. Both the AMP program and the Section 17 program do not result in a driver’s license suspension.
- Pre-trial Motions Such As a Motion to Suppress. The most common defense in a drug possession case is a Motion to Suppress. If the defense files a Motion to Suppress, the prosecution must show that the police officers obtained the evidence legally – meaning they did not violate the constitution and conduct an illegal search or interrogation. Many simple possession cases begin with the police conducting an illegal stop and frisk or a pretextual traffic stop. In other cases, police conduct searches of houses or automobiles without search warrants. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys excel at challenging the admissibility of evidence prior to trial at a Motion to Suppress. If we can show that the police did not have reasonable suspicion or probable cause prior to conducting a search, then the evidence could be suppressed and the charges dismissed. Other Pre-trial Motions available in the Philadelphia Municipal Court could include speedy trial motions (Rule 1013), motions in limine, and motions challenging the chain of custody of the drugs at the police laboratory.
- Challenging the Sufficiency of the Evidence. Every possessory offense requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant was either in actual possession or constructive possession of the contraband. Actual possession is easier to understand. If the police stop you and you have drugs in your hand or in your waistband, then you are in actual possession of the drugs. In that case, possession will be relatively easy for the prosecution to prove and the defense is more likely to be a Motion to Suppress. However, when police pull over a car containing multiple occupants and find drugs somewhere in the car, it is much more difficult for the Government to prove to whom the drugs belonged. In that type of case, the Commonwealth would have to prove constructive possession – meaning that one of the people in the car both had the ability to control the controlled substance and the intent to exercise control over the controlled substance. In other words, the prosecution must show that the drugs actually belonged to someone in the vehicle. The prosecution will often try to do this by showing that one passenger seemed nervous, made furtive movements in an attempt to try to hide the drugs, or was closer in proximity to the drugs than the other occupants of the vehicle. Our defense lawyers will use our cross-examination skills, honed from defending thousands of cases, to challenge this police testimony which is often exaggerated and formulaic.
A conviction for Knowing and Intentional Possession can have significant consequences even if a defendant does not receive a jail sentence. Probation violations often lead to probation detainers if the defendant does not perfectly comply with the conditions of probation. Likewise, the fines can be steep, and the other collateral consequences are significant. The loss of a driver’s license or eligibility problems in terms of obtaining federal financial aid can be a significant problem, as can having a drug conviction on your record. Given the signficicant potential consequences for a conviction, it is critical that you speak with an experienced defense attorney today if you are facing any type of drug charge in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties. Our lawyers can help.
Award-Winning Philadelphia Drug Possession Lawyers
The award-winning criminal defense lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC have successfully defended hundreds of Knowing and Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance case. Our lawyers know how to challenge the evidence against you and litigate the right pre-trial motions. We offer a free, 15-minute criminal defense strategy session to any potential client. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with one of our experienced and understanding defense attorneys today.