Opioid Drug Charges in Pennsylvania

Opioids are increasingly in the news headlines with many serious and unfortunate descriptions attached like “fatal” and “overdose.” But exactly what are opioids?

Opioids as a general term include many controlled substances that work by attaching to the body’s opiate receptors, which regulate pain. The powerful affect opioid compounds have on the nervous system produces widespread numbness. In the brain they work to release endorphins, creating euphoria among users.

Some narcotic drugs that are associated with the current opioid crisis are:

  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Carfentanyl
  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine methlybromide
  • Morphine

Opioids and Narcotics Offenses

Pennsylvania drug laws adopt the federal classification system of drugs under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act in addition to the Commonwealth’s Act. This means if you are accused of an offense, you could be charged with federal and state drug crimes.

Opioids and other controlled substances are listed under five “schedules,” where Schedule I substances are the most dangerous and Schedule V are considered the least dangerous drugs.

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However, it should be noted here that under current federal and state standards, marijuana is also a Schedule I drug.

pittsburgh opioid arrest
Schedule I Opioids include Heroin, Fentanyl derivatives, and Codeine methylbromide.

Schedule II Opioids include Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Methadone, and Morphine.

Illegal Possession

It is illegal to knowingly possess drugs listed on the schedules, unless you have a prescription or you are registered with the Commonwealth (i.e. pharmacist or doctor).  Specifically, you could be charged with:

Int Poss Cont Sub By Per Not Reg

This is shorthand for “Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance by Person Not Registered,” meaning you are not registered with the state as someone legally allowed to possess the drug, nor do you have a prescription to possess.

Depending upon factors such as how much of the drug was found, you will face either simple possession charges or drug trafficking charges (see below.)

Drug Trafficking Offenses

Possession with intent to distribute (PWID)

This is a very serious felony charge that means what it says. If you are found with paraphernalia used in selling or distributing opioids, or the amount found is significant, you will likely be facing drug trafficking offenses such as PWID.

Under Pennsylvania statutory law (Chap. 75, § 7508) you will face the following mandatory minimum penalties at sentencing if you are convicted for manufacturing or PWID opiates:

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing for Opioid Drug Trafficking Crimes

Weight (in aggregate)Prison TimeFineOther
2 grams to < 10 grams1st = 2 years
Prior = 3 years
1st = $5,000
Prior = $10,000
Loss of right to carry firearm
10 g. to < 100 grams1st = 3 years
Prior = 5 years
1st = $15,000
Prior = $30,000
Loss of right to carry firearm
100 grams or more1st = 5 years
Prior = 7 years
1st = $25,000
Prior = $50,000
Loss of right to carry firearm

How can I avoid jail time for an opioid arrest?

If you have no criminal record and this is your first offense for possession where no other charges are brought involving firearms or violence, then your defense lawyer may be able to negotiate a Probation Without Verdict with the DA.

Because you will have to plead guilty or no contest before you can be considered for Probation Without Verdict, you should carefully review all of your options such as any strong defenses your attorney can advance to overcome the charges during litigation.

It may also be possible to arrange a Disposition in Lieu of Trial or Punishment. You and your defense lawyer can discuss how to seek this outcome in your opioid offense case —but be aware that you must act fast for this to be a viable option and you can only use this disposition once in your lifetime.

Felony charges for trafficking require a thorough review of all of the evidence and more complex defense strategies, such as challenging the alleged weight and/or substance found, in order to achieve a favorable outcome.

If you are facing opioid drug charges in Pennsylvania, it is critical that you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has successfully defended against drug offenses and who can focus all of their energies on your case.

Call Tibbott & Richardson today: 412-690-0225 or 814-419-6440

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