The possession or distribution of controlled substances is against the law, both on a state and federal level. However, while there are federal penalties for these crimes that apply uniformly, there are individual state laws and penalties as well. In Maryland, drug possession and drug distribution are two distinct crimes that carry separate consequences. If you are facing drug charges in Maryland, here’s what you should know about the differences between drug possession and drug distribution:
What Constitutes Drug Possession?
In Maryland, drug possession, officially referred to as possession of a controlled substance, is defined as the possession of any controlled substance that is not obtained directly from an authorized provider (doctor) or lawful prescription. Controlled substances refer to all substances named in the Controlled Substances Act.
The Penalties for Drug Possession
As found in Maryland Code Section 5-601, with the exception of marijuana, any person who is found to be in possession of a controlled substance will be charged with a misdemeanor and will be immediately subjected to a fine of up to $25,000, a prison term of up to four years, or both.
The penalty for possession of marijuana is a fine of up to $1,000, an incarceration term of up to one year, or both. If the amount of marijuana in possession is less than 10 grams, then the crime is a civil offense that is punishable by a fine of not more than $100.
Keep in mind that if you are found to be in possession of a large amount of drugs, you may have a charge of intent to distribute assessed against you. This offense is more serious than simple possession.
As a side note, the possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use or actual use is also against the law and can result in a large fine, jail time, or both.
Understanding Drug Distribution
According to Maryland code, distribute, as it pertains to a controlled substance, means “to deliver other than dispensing.” In other words, if you are in possession of illegal drugs and you give or sell them to another party, you are guilty of drug distribution. Keep in mind that this crime applies to the illegal distribution of prescription drugs, even if the distributor obtained the drugs lawfully.
Penalties for a drug distribution crime are dependent upon the type and amount of drug involved. If a person distributes a Schedule I or Schedule II narcotic drug, they can be found guilty of a felony charge and subjected to a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $15,000 or both.
For less serious drugs, the penalty for distribution is less severe. However, any length of a prison sentence, and any mark against your criminal record, can have lasting consequences.
Defenses to Drug Possession or Distribution
If you have been charged with drug possession, possession with intent to distribute, or drug distribution in Maryland, your first step should be to call a criminal defense attorney knowledgeable in drug crimes. Your attorney can help you to build a defense, which might include arguments that assert:
- Legal possession of the drugs;
- Lack of intent;
- Lack of knowledge of possession;
- Illegal search and seizure;
The defenses that are available to you will vary based on the specifics of your case. If the prosecution appears to have a sound case against you, your attorney can help you to negotiate a plea bargain to mitigate the harshest of consequences, and perhaps even have charges against you reduced.
Contact The Law Office of Jonathan R. Fellner L.L.C. Today for Your Consultation
If you are convicted of a drug crime, whether it be drug possession or drug distribution, you can almost guarantee that your sentence will include some incarceration time and a large fine, and that there will be a lasting impact on your life. The best way to defend yourself against charges and exercise your Constitutional rights is to secure legal counsel as soon as possible after being charged, or after becoming aware that you are under investigation. At The Law Office of Jonathan R. Fellner L.L.C., our experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney is review your case. Contact us at 301-309-2000 today, visit our office on East Jefferson Street in Rockville in person, or send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.