In Pennsylvania, the sentences and punishments for drug offenses range drastically. One individual could be up against no time behind bars and a small slap on the wrist while another may be facing several years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. What determines whether or not a defendant will be looking at potential imprisonment in their case? There are numerous factors that will play a part, including the type of drug offense, the individual’s criminal record, the amount of drugs involved, and the location of the crime. In addition to these factors, there is one more issues that is often overlooked: gun possession. Simply being found with a gun on your person in connection with a drug crime could seriously heighten the penalties you face.
For example, if you are found in possession of a small amount of marijuana, you will likely face a minor fine, short jail sentence, or time on probation. In the worst case scenario, you will spend the maximum 30 days in jail. However, if you are caught in the act of selling drugs with a firearm in your possession, you are facing much heavier consequences, such as five years behind bars.
What the Law Says About Joint Drug & Gun Offenses
Under state law, any individual found to be in possession of drugs with the intent to distribute and with a firearm on their person is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. This term can be sentenced regardless of the type or amount of drugs involved. The law further states that even if just the person's accomplice is found to be in physical possession of a gun, this sentence can still be enforced.
Unfortunately, due to the fact that this law is worded very broadly, prosecutors and courts often apply it broadly. Even if you did not have a firearm on your person, simply being around another individual who does or being in “close proximity” to a gun could result in you spending a minimum of five years in prison. The idea of close proximity has not been clearly defined by the courts, meaning that the prosecution could loosely interpret this law, putting the defendant at a serious disadvantage.
The good news is that the lawyers at Parkinson, Tarpey & Lloyd have handled cases involving drug distribution offenses and the five year mandatory sentence enforced under Pennsylvania law due to the presence of a gun. Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys know how challenging these charges can be, which is why we bring a tough and tenacious level of representation to the table. Our team is made up of former prosecutors that boast more than 40 years of collective legal experience. You can trust them to fiercely and effectively defend your reputation and future against such charges.
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