Drug Possession vs. Drug Distribution: What You Need to Know

By: Guest
December 11 2020

The U.S. does not take crimes involving controlled substances lightly. Those who are found guilty of possession and distribution of illegal drugs face severe and sometimes life-altering consequences.

Not all drug crimes are created equal, as some may have more dire consequences than others. Still, anybody facing drug-related charges needs an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle their case and represent them in the court of law.

Below are important facts about drug possession and drug distribution you need to know about.

Possession of Illegal Drugs

The possession of Schedule I and Schedule II drugs such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, and other “club drugs” is considered illegal by both state and federal laws. Any person found with these substances, even in small amounts, could face varying degrees of penalties, depending on the amount of drug found in their possession and the state where they were arrested.

A person can only be charged with possession of illegal drugs if he/she is knowingly in possession of the substance and is aware – beyond reasonable doubt – that they are illegal.

According to the law, there are two types of drug possession – actual possession and constructive possession. Actual possession applies to people who are caught in physical control of the drugs. This is the case when an individual is found with a controlled substance in his/her pocket.

On the other hand, persons charged with constructive possession have access and control over the drugs, even if the substance is not found on their person at the time of the arrest. For example, if a controlled substance is discovered in your home, you and all the other people living with you can be charged with constructive possession.

Aside from actual and constructive cases, the crime of drug possession may also extend to the discovery of drug paraphernalia and precursor chemicals used to make these controlled substances. However, these pieces of evidence have to be connected to drug use to warrant possession charges.

Simple Possession

Simple possession is the most common drug charge in the country. This occurs when a person is found with a small amount of substance, only enough for personal use. For simple possession to apply, the defendant must not have exhibited any intent to sell or offer the drugs to someone else.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

Possession with the intent to sell carries with it much harsher punishments than simple drug possession. For an individual to be charged with possession and intention to sell, the law enforcement officers must have found a larger quantity of illegal substances, more than enough for personal use. Other evidence may also include scales, baggies, and a substantial amount of cash.

Penalties for Drug Possession and Intent to Distribute

The penalties for illegal drug possession may include a misdemeanor charge for the first offense, a fine of at least $1000, and jail time of less than one year or community service. Subsequent possession offenses, however, will qualify as a felony and require more than a year of jail time.

The punishment for a possession with intent charge may vary from state to state, and according to the type and quantity of illegal drugs found. In most cases, the crime would be considered a misdemeanor if the amount is 20 grams or less. However, possession of more than 21 grams of an illegal substance will usually qualify as a felony, punishable with years of prison time and heftier fines.

On the other hand, large-scale distribution of illegal drugs carries severe and life-changing sentences, including more than ten years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Even harsher punishments await those who are found guilty of selling illegal drugs to minors.

Anybody who finds themselves facing drug-related charges should hire an attorney who has experience in handling drug-related charges. Drug lawyers are well-versed with both state and federal drug laws and have the proficiency to effectively defend your case in court.

About the Author

Stephanie Gordon currently works as the Content Marketing Strategist for the Arizona Criminal Law Team. Aside from spreading awareness about criminal law and defense, she enjoys reading and trail running with her family and friends.


This is a guest post by Stephanie Gordon. This post has been edited for syntax and grammar.  The Law offices of Jay Leiderman is not responsible for the accuracy of the content herein or any opinions or ideas expressed herein.  This post is for entertainment and literary value and is not intended as legal advice.  This post does not establish an attorney-client relationship of any sort.  If you have legal questions about ideas presented herein please contact a lawyer knowledgeable in this field of practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *