DC Drug Penalties

Drug offenses in DC are taken seriously and prosecuted as such. Due to this attitude, there are a variety of consequences that a person may face for being charged or convicted of a drug crime. The basic ways to become more familiar with drug crime penalties are to study the laws related to potential penalties for drug crimes in DC or consult with an attorney who defends defendants in drug cases in DC.

Overall, drug penalties will depend on the circumstances of an individual’s case, as well as the particular offense and the schedule of the drug they are involved with. If you are facing any of the serious potential penalties for drug offenses in DC, it is important to work with an experienced DC drug attorney who can help to mitigate any potential penalties and build a proper defense.

Potential Penalties

In DC, the penalties for simple possession of drugs are lenient, compared to other jurisdictions, because personal possession of even cocaine or heroin is a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is 180 days in jail for a misdemeanor. Someone who is convicted of personal possession of a controlled substance could be eligible for a diversion program or probation with or without a small amount of jail time.

In DC Superior Court, if the charge is personal possession, the aforementioned factors typically are not going to make much of a difference. The quantity can affect what a prosecutor is willing to offer and what a judge might consider as a penalty in DC, but typically if a person is prosecuted for personal possession of a controlled substance, the amount is nominal.  DC Superior Court does not make a distinction in the penalty for the personal possession of different Schedule drugs because all of them are misdemeanors (with the exception of liquid PCP).

Intent to Distribute Penalties

If an individual is convicted of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in DC Superior Court, the potential for imprisonment increases dramatically. Even so, the DC sentencing guidelines for drug crimes are not nearly as harsh as the federal guidelines.

If a person is charged with possession with intent to distribute, the Schedule of the drug is significant. When possessing with intent to distribute Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, the potential penalty is up to 30 years in prison, whereas the penalty in DC for the same charge with Schedule III drugs is five years incarceration, Schedule IV drugs holds three years incarceration, and Schedule V drugs is one-year incarceration.

Aggravating Factors

In federal court, the amount of drugs will be an important factor in determining how harsh the penalty will be. Scheduling of drugs in DC is also important because there are different penalties for different scheduled drugs. Additionally, the crime committed and the specific factors of the crime will impact the penalty in federal court.

There are multiple additional factors involved in a drug trafficking enterprise that impact the penalty, including the defendant’s role, the individual’s criminal history (since recidivism equals harsher penalties), and the location where the alleged crime occurred. Location can be a factor in the penalty, particularly when a drug traffic enterprise crosses multiple jurisdictions or involves activities near playgrounds or schools.

Role of An Attorney

An attorney who is handling a drug case in DC needs to be able to present the mitigating circumstances and facts to the prosecutor and the court, to humanize and personalize the defendant, and put them in the best possible light to mitigate any drug penalties in DC they face. Any attorney who is handling a drug case should also challenge the evidence against their client. That would include challenging allegations about the client’s activities, their intentions, and any evidence that the prosecutors try to use. Challenging evidence also includes making sure that the government’s computations or the amount of drugs involved are accurate. Further, it is important for the attorney to minimize the defendant’s alleged bad behavior.

DC Drug Penalties