What Is The Timeline Of Drug-Related Cases In Pennsylvania?
The timelines of drug-related cases are similar to those of all other types of cases. However, major felony cases that involve possession with intent to deliver and multiple co-defendants can take over two years depending upon the specifics of the case. Larger and more complex cases are more likely to take longer because they are harder to defend and require more work.
The speedy trial rule under Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 mandates that if a person is incarcerated, they must be tried within six months of the date of arrest. If the person is not incarcerated, then the Commonwealth has 12 months to try the person. There are times that don’t count, such as any continuances that may be requested by and granted to the defense. If a case has to go to trial, then it could take anywhere from eight months to a year-and-a-half to resolve. That amount of time includes the assumption that there would be a couple of defense continuances which would stop the speedy trial clock from running.
Do Most Drug-Related Cases Go All The Way To Trial?
Most drug-related cases do not go all the way to trial. In part, this is because by the time the defense gets through all of the ominous pre-trial motions and challenges (such as motions to suppress evidence), they often don’t have much of a case on which to stand. It is always an uphill battle to try to defeat the Commonwealth’s case. This is especially true with drug cases, because senior law enforcement agents, detectives and task forces are usually involved in any major narcotics investigations.
If the defense goes through the motions, challenges everything and doesn’t make any headway with the court, then you usually have to resign yourself to the fact that the prosecution has a good enough case to win, and it may hurt the defendant more to take the case to trial. It also depends on the Judge who hears the case. If it’s a Judge who is extremely harsh on drug cases, then the defense needs to take that into consideration. In some cases, the Commonwealth might be successful in keeping evidence from being suppressed, but they may realize that their case is weak in other ways that they learn as a result of the defense challenging the evidence in these hearings. As a result, they might make a deal or a plea offer that is better than the one they first offered. Oftentimes plea deals can be hard to turn down because going to trial means risking excessive jail time if the defendant should lose.
What Are The Penalties For Drug-Related Convictions In Pennsylvania?
Drug-related convictions that involve serious drugs are usually felonies. Possession of a personal amount of marijuana (less than 30 grams) results in a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Misdemeanor drug convictions result in a maximum penalty of up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine. If there are prior convictions for drugs, then misdemeanors can result in three-year maximum prison sentences and $25,000 fines. Possession of ecstasy is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
The penalties increase in accordance with the amount of ecstasy that a person is found to be in possession of. For example, if a person has more than 30 but less than 300 grams (or between 100 and 1,000 doses), then the penalty is up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Anything over 300 grams (or more than 1,000 doses) results in a penalty of 15 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Similar penalties apply to the possession of cocaine and marijuana. If a person possesses less than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, they would be facing five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. If a person possesses more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana, then it’s 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Possession of felony cocaine carries a penalty of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Possession of felony heroin carries a penalty of 15 years in prison and a $150,000 fine. These are the statutory maximums that people can expect.
There are also mandatory sentencing enhancements based on the amount of drug that a person is found to be in possession of. If a person is found to be in possession of one to five grams of heroin, then the minimum mandatory sentence is two years in prison. For a second offense, the minimum mandatory sentence is three years in prison. If a person is found to be in possession of five to 50 grams of heroin, then the minimum mandatory sentence is three years in prison. Possession of anything over 50 grams of heroin would result in a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison. If a person is found to be in possession of two to 10 grams of cocaine, then the minimum mandatory sentence is one year in prison. Possession of 10 to 100 grams results in a sentence of three years in prison, and possession of more than 100 grams of cocaine results in a sentence of four years in prison.
The penalties for possession of Schedule I and Schedule II narcotics is similar, with two to 10 grams resulting in a sentence of two years in prison, 10 to 100 grams resulting in a sentence of three years in prison, and more than 100 grams resulting in a sentence of five years in prison. If you are found in possession of two to 10 pounds of marijuana or 21 live plants, then the mandatory minimum sentence is one year in prison. If you are found in possession of 10 to 50 pounds or 51 live plants, then the mandatory minimum sentence is five years in prison. Most of these mandatory minimums are applicable to felony drug trafficking charges.
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