Understand the facts behind an intent to distribute charge

What turns a simple drug possession charge into a much more serious "possession with the intent to distribute" charge?

It often comes down to the quantity of the drugs in your possession when you're arrested. If the prosecutor decides that there's no reason for someone to have that much marijuana, cocaine or other drug around for his or her private use, that's usually enough for the charge to be elevated.

If you've been charged with this serious drug crime, there are some important things you should consider:

1. You don't have to be caught actually selling drugs for the charge to stick. A prosecutor will often make his or her case for an intent charge using circumstantial evidence alone. Prosecutors may insist to the jury that there's no possible explanation for anyone to have whatever quantity of the drug you had unless you were planning to sell it.

2. The circumstantial evidence against you may be ordinary household items. Drug paraphernalia is very broadly defined. Do you have a box of sandwich baggies in your home? That could easily be used to show your "intentions," since larger quantities of drugs are often broken up and stored in small bags for quick sale to individual customers. Scales, balloons and ordinary cigarette rolling papers are all possible items that can be used as evidence to support an intent charge.

3. Prosecutors often use the charge as a bargaining chip. Since simple possession charges have relatively minor consequences compared to any sort of charge related to the sale of drugs, the prosecution may push the higher charge in order to give the state more power. An offer to drop the intent charge in exchange for a guilty plea to a possession charge can sound very attractive to a frightened defendant.

If you've been charged with drug possession with the intent to distribute, get legal help immediately. A good criminal lawyer can help you determine just how strong the prosecution's case against you really is and help you decide what step to take next.

Source: FindLaw, "Possession with the Intent to Distribute," accessed July 20, 2017

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