A Drug Prosecution and Frequently Asked Questions

By: William E. Moore

Alice and Karen are students at Delaware Valley College and share an apartment close to campus. Alice knows Karen uses cocaine and suspects she has been selling it because of the many rumors she has heard and some of the unsavory people who have visited their apartment.

One Friday evening, the police arrived at the apartment with a search warrant. During the search they found a scale in a kitchen cabinet and numerous small unused glassine bags in a kitchen drawer. The police also found 8 grams of cocaine in Karen's room. The police found an empty glassine bag with residue in Alice's room.

The police arrest Alice and Karen and charge them both with Possession of Cocaine and Possession With Intent to Deliver Cocaine.

The following Frequently Asked Questions arise:

  1. Did the search warrant contain sufficient probable cause for the police to search the apartment?
  2. Do both girls possess the drugs and paraphernalia found through out the apartment?
  3. Is there enough evidence to support the charge of Possession With Intent to Deliver Cocaine?
  4. What are the possible penalties?

1. The police obtain a search warrant by issuing a request to the local District Magistrate. The search warrant must contain specifically a description of the premises to be searched and what items are being sought by the police. Also attached to this is an affidavit detailing the reasons the police have probable cause to believe the items identified in the search warrant will be found at the apartment. If the search warrant does not meet the legal standards and is successfully challenged by Alice or Karen at a future hearing, then the remedy would be for all the evidence seized to be suppressed or not admitted in to evidence at the trial.

2. Items found in a common area such as a kitchen or a shared bathroom are presumed to be under the control of anyone who uses these areas. However, in cases where the possession of the drugs are not found on the person, the Commonwealth must prove the individual had the ability to control the drugs and in fact, knew of their location. In order to successfully charge Possession With Intent to Deliver, the Commonwealth must prove the amount of drugs possessed where possessed for sale or distribution. The presence of a scale and individual glassine bags along with 8 grams of cocaine may be sufficient to convict Karen of Possession With Intent to Deliver and not Alice.

There are certain mandatory sentences applicable in drugs case. For Possession With Intent to Deliver Cocaine, where the weight is 2 grams but less than 10 grams, there is a mandatory 1 year prison sentence. If the residence is located in close proximity to a school, there can be further incarceration in addition to the mandatory sentence.

If faced with any type of drugs charges, it is important to immediately seek legal counsel who can analyze your particular situation and advise you accordingly.