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DO PENNSYLVANIA COURTS REALLY HAVE TO IMPOSE A MANDATORY FIVE YEAR PRISON TERM FOR DRUG AND GUN OFFENSES?

In Pennsylvania, sentences and punishments for convictions of crimes involving the sale or possession of narcotics run the gamut from potentially no time in jail to being sent away for a very long time.  For example, convictions for possession of a small amount of marijuana often result in a fine or sentence of probation and even in the worst case scenario, the maximum jail stay of for this crime is only 30 days. In most cases, people receive probationary sentences for a first offense where the charge is simple possession of more serious drugs for personal use.

The selling of drugs, better know in the legal community as possession with the intent to distribute (or PWID), is a different story. Most people are aware that factors such as the type of drug involved, the quantity of drugs involved, and the location where the crime occurs all have a significant impact on the type of punishment someone will receive if convicted of such an offense. However, many people do not know if a gun is found during the arrest or investigation, a person accused of distributing drugs is looking at a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in jail, regardless of the type of drug involved or the amount of drugs at issue.

Pennsylvania law states that a person must receive a minimum prison sentence of "at least five years" for a conviction for possessing drugs with the intent to deliver them if "the person or his accomplice is in physical possession or control of a firearm, whether visible or concealed, or within the person's or accomplices reach, or in close proximity to the controlled substance."

This law was worded broadly by the legislature and is applied broadly by courts. As you can see, it does not matter whether a person being tried for selling drugs had physical possession of a gun.  Even if a gun is found on another person or simply within the reach of another person, the person convicted of the drug offense could be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison. "Within a person's reach" and "close proximity to the drugs" are phrases that have not been clearly defined by the courts.  This leaves judges, juries, and prosecutors the ability to apply a very loose interpretation that can be a tremendous disadvantage to someone charged with a drug offense.

The law offices of Parkinson and Tarpey have represented hundreds of people who have been charged with selling drugs and been subject to a five year mandatory sentence because a gun is somehow involved with the case. Michael ParkinsonTimothy Tarpey and Jim Lloyd are criminal defense attorneys and former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys with more than 40 years of experience who have handled thousands of drug cases involving firearms. We have extensive knowledge of how to adequately defend these cases so that your freedom is not jeopardized. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a selling narcotics and are looking at a mandatory because of a gun, contact our offices as soon as possible so we can start working on your defense.

To arrange a free consultation please contact us at (215) 851-8800.

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Parkinson, Tarpey & Lloyd
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
Located at: 1500 JFK Boulevard, Suite 1030
Philadelphia, PA 19102 View Map
Phone: (215) 352-3432
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