It is important to note that when a person has been found with a specific controlled substance, then they automatically violate the law.
However, they may be in violation of the law in a different manner depending on what was found on their person and whether or not they intended to possess it. For example, if a person was found with an illicit prescription drug and/or illicit illegal drug on their person, they may be charged with drug possession with intent to distribute. If a person was found with a controlled substance and did not have the intent to distribute it, they may be charged with simple possession of a controlled substance.
What Is Drug Possession vs Possession With Intent
There are two main ways that criminal charges for this occur: (1) illegal possession and (2) illegal possession with intent.
A person has illegal possession of a controlled substance when they are in possession of that substance, but does not have an intent to sell or distribute the substance. For example, if a person has pills in their pocket, they can be charged with illegal possession. However, to be charged with possession with intent to distribute, the prosecutor must also show that the person intended to sell or share the pills. In other words, possession with intent covers more than just possession of the substance.
On the other hand, a person charged with drug possession with intent can be found in possession of a controlled substance, and they can also have an intent to sell or share the substance. This offense is more serious than simple possession because the person willfully intended to distribute, sell, or share the substance.
Defenses To Possession With Intent: What To Do If Charged With This Offense
If you find yourself being charged with possession with intent, it is important to remember that being in possession of the substance does not automatically make you guilty. You can be charged with possession with intent even if you did not know the substance you were found with was an illicit controlled substance.
What Are the Differences in Penalties
For drug possession, the penalties vary depending on the state and the specific drug that is involved.
In a lot of states, possession with intent is a felony charge, while simple possession is a misdemeanor charge. If a person is convicted of a felony, they can be sentenced to prison. If they are convicted of a misdemeanor, they can be sentenced to jail. However, they may be sentenced to a short amount of time in jail if they are convicted of a simple possession charge.
In Missouri, the penalties between drug possession and possession with intent are as follows:
Class D felony sentenced up to 7 years
Fines up to $10,000
“Persistent” – two or more offenses (elevated to Class C felony)
Class C felony, sentenced from 3 up to 10 years
Fines up to $10,000
Possession With Intent (depending on the drug):
Class B felony, sentenced from 5 up to 15 years
Class A felony, sentenced from 10 to 30 years
What Forms of Evidence Elevates a Standard Possession Charge
In most situations, standard possession charges are elevated to possession with intent charges when law enforcement can demonstrate that the person arrested had the intent to sell or distribute the substance.
When a person is arrested with drug paraphernalia, they can be charged with possession with intent. For example, if a person is found with baggies, a scale, lots of cash, or even their own controlled substance, their charges may be elevated to possession with intent.
Amount of Drugs
In most cases, the amount of drugs or controlled substances is key in determining whether or not someone should be charged with possession with intent. When a person is found with a substance that is indicative of the intent to sell or distribute the substance, the state may be able to charge them with possession with intent.
A person that communicates to another person that they intend to sell or distribute a controlled substance can be charged with possession with intent. For example, if a person is found with a substance and communicates with the police that they intend to sell the substance or buy more of the substance, they can be charged with possession with intent.
Wayne Schoeneberg is a criminal attorney in St Louis, MO that has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of people charged with a crime. Let Wayne help you fight back against your drug possession charges. Contact Wayne today to find out more about your rights!