The Straight Dope: What You Need To Know About Washington, DC Drug Laws

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The Straight Dope: What You Need To Know About Washington, DC Drug Laws

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In the District of Columbia, there are three types of drug offenses: possession, possession with intent to distribute, and distribution. Your Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer should be familiar with all three.

Possession of a controlled substance is charged if a person is accused of simply having drugs.  There are two types of possession under DC Drug laws: actual and constructive.  Actual possession is when a person is caught with drugs on his or her person.  For example, if you are arrested for any reason and during the search incident to arrest a cop finds a bag of cocaine in your pocket, you will likely be charged with possession.

 

Alternatively, constructive possession is when a person does not have drugs on his or her person but under the circumstances it appears that the person had the intent to exercise dominion and control over the drugs. If you are pulled over in your car for a traffic violation, and drugs are found somewhere in the car other than on your person, you may be charged with constructive possession. This is a very common scenario faced by drug possession defendants. In contrast to actual possession, your D.C. criminal defense lawyer has a decent chance of winning a constructive possession case. But of course, the strength of the government’s case against you is determined by the individual facts.

The second type of drug offense is Possession with Intent to Distribute (“PWID”).  PWID is charged when a person is caught in possession of an illegal substance and there are other indicia of sale such that it can be assumed that the person was intending to sell the drugs.  Indicia of sale are items found in connection with drugs that would lead someone to believe that the drugs were intended to be sold.  Indicia of sale may include possession of sandwich baggies, scales, and large amounts of cash.  For example, if the police search your home and find a large quantity of heroin divided up into little baggies, along with a digital scale and some cash, you can be charged with PWID because there is sufficient indicia of sale to assume that you intended to sell heroin.

PWID is generally charged as a felony offense depending on the type of drug possessed.  It is a common misconception that a person has to be caught with a large quantity of drugs in order to be charged with PWID.  While quantity of drugs is a good indicia of sale, it is just one factor considered and it is not determinative of whether PWID will be charged.

The most serious drug offense is distribution. Distribution is charged if a person is caught in the act of selling a controlled substance.  For example, if an undercover cop gives you money and in exchange you give the cop a gram of marijuana, you can be charged with distribution because you were caught in the act of distributing the illegal drug.  Distribution is almost always charged as a felony.

Criminal defense attorney Jay Mykytiuk has successfully challenged the government on all types of drug charges.  If you are someone you know has been arrested for distribution, possession, or PWID, contact Jay Mykytiuk immediately for a full consultation.