DC Drug Possession Penalties

Drug possession penalties in DC are not something an individual should take lightly. The penalties for simple personal possession are not as severe in DC as they are in many other jurisdictions, however, any criminal conviction has severe ancillary consequences. The record of the individual accused now contains a criminal conviction, and that person could lose their security clearance or their job.

To avoid such consequences, it is important that any individual involved contact an experienced attorney immediately. A seasoned lawyer will be able to craft an effective defense to help lessen or dismiss any drug possession penalties you may be facing in DC.

Severity of Potential Penalties

The penalty for a misdemeanor drug possession charge is up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. For a first offense, it is possible that a person will be given the benefit of a diversion program. By completing community service, staying out of trouble, and testing negative for drugs, an individual may be able to avoid a conviction. A diversion program gives the accused individual a way to lessen their penalties.

For a first offense, an individual can expect some nominal jail time as a worst-case scenario. However, there is the opportunity of probation for the individual to show they are serious about the consequences of their charge.

Possession with the Intent to Distribute

There is a line of demarcation between possession for personal use and possession with the intent to distribute. The latter jumps up to a felony with the possibility of incarceration. The maximum penalty is 30 years for possession with the intent to distribute drugs, excluding marijuana.

In these cases, there are sentencing guidelines that the court must consult with and use to sentence a person that takes into account various factors such as the individual’s criminal history. However, the full extent of potential punishment can be unclear. For someone with multiple convictions on their record, the maximum penalty for drug possession becomes much harsher in DC.

Mistakes to Avoid

In drug possession cases, it is very often the situation that police stop an individual and search them. Law enforcement must have probable cause to do so, and that often raises constitutional concerns. The police must have the lawful justification to stop the person and do a pat-down search of them or conduct a thorough full-on search. That is something a defense attorney will examine closely, because it can determine the drug possession penalties associated with the case.

When drugs are found on a person, unless the evidence of the drug can be excluded from the case, it is extremely difficult to defend. The key is the police showing that justification. This element can lead to harsh penalties associated with a drug possession case in DC.

Consenting to a Search

A huge mistake an individual can make is when they know they have drugs or other illegal items on them, and the police officer asks their permission to do a search and the person gives their consent. Once an individual gives consent, no constitutional challenges can be in play.

Someone who consents to a police search when they are not in custody no longer has the protections of the constitution regarding whether the police had the lawful justification to do the search. Consent is lawful justification. A common misconception is that an individual will be given lesser charges because they were honest with law enforcement, however, this is not the case.

Admission of Guilt

Secondly, a person should not admit to having anything illegal on them. If a police officer comes into contact with a person and asks if they have any drugs or weapons on them and they say yes, that individual has just admitted to a statement that can be used against them, and give the police probable cause to conduct a search.

There is no legal requirement to say yes when a police officer asks an individual if they have something illegal on their person. Due to the severity of such penalties associated with a drug possession charge in DC, a person should either say nothing or ask to speak to their attorney.