In general, drug possession in the Washington DC is a misdemeanor crime. Possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, and other illegal substances carry a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000.00 fine. For first time offenders, DC criminal law has a special provision that is basically “probation before judgment.” Section 904.01(e) under Chapter 48 of the DC code permits a judge to sentence an individual to probation without entering a judgment when it is that person’s first drug related conviction.
What that means is if the person completes probation successfully at the end of the probation, the Court seals up the arrest record and case. Probation before judgment is a way to avoid having a conviction on one’s record. It is completely within the judge’s discretion to sentence someone to probation before judgment and the person must have no prior drug related convictions in any jurisdiction (not just in Washington DC).
The penalties significantly increase for more serious drug crimes such as possession with the intent to distribute or distribution, which are both felonies. The government usually charges possession with intent to distribute in cases where there are large quantities of drugs seized as well as what the government calls “indicia of sale.”
Indicia of sale include things like scales, little baggies, and other paraphernalia one might use in the sale of illegal drugs. Distribution cases arise usually where the police observe an individual actually selling illegal drugs. The most common scenario is a “buy bust” where an undercover police officer poses as a drug purchaser, buys drugs from a suspected dealer, and then subsequently arrests the person.
Lastly, the possession of phencyclidine or “PCP” in its liquid form is a felony charge regardless of whether the possessor intends to sell it or use it for personal use. The DC City Council, the police, the prosecution, and the court all take PCP very seriously. As a result, unlike simple possession for other drugs, possession of PCP in its liquid form carries significantly greater penalties than possession of other illegal drugs and the government does not have to prove that the person intended to sell or distribute the drug.
Its important to contact an experienced DC drug possession lawyer when charged with a drug crime. Conviction of a drug crime can lead to jail time, fines, or probation as well as a number of other bad consequences. Scrofano Law has handled dozens of drug crimes in DC resulting in dismissals, acquittals, and probationary sentences. If you are charged with a DC drug crime, contact Scrofano Law for a free consultation today.