DC Possession With Intent to Distribute Penalties

The main impact the presence of an intent to distribute charge has on a drug case is elevating that case to a felony. The only exception is with a small quantity of marijuana. That could still be a misdemeanor, even if the government shows there is the intent to distribute. But other than the exception of marijuana, while mere possession of drugs for personal use is a misdemeanor, possession with intent to distribute is a felony. That has dramatic consequences with the processing of the case, the procedure, the seriousness of the charge, and the potential punishment for a conviction. If you are faced with such a charge, it is crucial that you contact a DC intent to distribute drugs attorney as soon as possible to aid in mitigating or dismissing any consequences you may be facing.

Maximum Penalties

When the government charges someone with possession of drugs for personal use, the maximum penalty for such a misdemeanor is 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If the government proceeds with a felony possession with an intent to distribute charge in DC, the maximum penalty under the law is up to 30 years in prison. No one would expect to receive such a harsh penalty for a first offense conviction with possession with intent to distribute in DC Superior Court. Instead, a court looks at the sentencing guidelines. The guidelines are set up to guide or inform the court of the appropriate sentence.

Instead of having a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail, there is the potential for courts to sentence an individual to one or more years in prison. The court looks closely at an individual’s prior criminal history because that dictates where they fall in the guidelines. Under felony sentencing guidelines, an individual’s prior criminal history can move them to a position where the court is supposed to sentence an individual to prison. That is never the case with a misdemeanor charge as it is with the felony intent to distribute charge. A misdemeanor conviction never carries a prison sentence, but rather the possibility of jail time in the DC jail.

Sentencing Factors

In DC, the big difference in sentencing is whether an individual is possessing a controlled substance for their personal use or possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute it. Possession of any drug on the Schedule for personal use is a misdemeanor offense, which is punishable by 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. That would include heroin, cocaine, Xanax, and certain other prescription medications.

If the charge is possession with the intent to distribute a Schedule I drug, like heroin, the maximum penalty is 30 years in prison or a fine of $75,000. For Schedule II drugs, the maximum possible penalty for distributing, selling, or possessing with the intent to distribute is 30 years in prison and a fine of $75,000. If the drug is not considered a narcotic or an abusive drug, possession with intent to distribute or sell the drug is punishable by five years in prison or a $12,500 fine.

The penalties for selling or possessing with the intent to sell Schedule III drugs are five years in prison and a $12,500 fine. For Schedule IV drugs, the penalty for selling or possessing with intent to sell is three years in prison and a $12,500 fine. If a person possesses Schedule V drugs with the intent to distribute, the maximum penalty is a year in prison or a $2,500 fine.

Alternative Sentencing

Usually, there will be no diversion programs or alternative sentencing options for possession with intent to distribute convictions, but there can be exceptions. DC is progressive with alternative or diversion programs for personal possession. There are several different types of programs. Being charged with possession with intent to distribute drugs removes an individual from the possibility of having those diversion options, but there are several statutory options that are specific to personal possession only.

However, in certain possession with intent to distribute cases, the government may agree to have a person participate in a drug court program. If the person successfully completes drug testing and treatment and returns to court on a regular basis over a period of time, the government may agree to reduce their charge down to simple possession or allow them to avoid conviction. But that is the exception to the rule.

When someone is charged with personal possession, particularly if it is their first criminal offense and they do not have a record of convictions related to drug use or any kind of violent activity, it would be expected for them to have the opportunity to participate in a diversion program. With a possession with intent to distribute drug charge, even if it is someone’s first offense, it is unlikely they would have the option of a diversion program available to them.

DC Drug Possession with Intent to Distribute Lawyer