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What is possession of a drug with the intent to distribute?

A drug charge is often considered a serious charge and one that could severely impact the personal and professional life of the accused, especially if that person is convicted of the crime. In some cases, defendants in New York and elsewhere could face additional charges that stem from an original drug possession charge. However, in order for an individual to face charges in conjunction with possession of a drug, certain elements need to be satisfied.

What is possession of a drug with the intent to distribute? To understand this crime fully, it will be broken down into two parts first. To be charged with possession, most states and the federal government view this as merely the act of holding an illegal drug or controlled substance on your person. This could be in a hand, pocket, bag or purse; however, evidence that the drug was within the person's control could be enough for the person to be deemed in possession of the drug. Despite that, the person charged with possession must know that the drugs are present, which means they must have knowingly obtained or received the controlled substance or knew of the drugs presence.

On the other hand, the intent to distribute or sell a controlled substance is based on the surrounding circumstances. Intent to sell is often based on the amount of drugs a person is holding. If it is an amount too large for personal use, this could be evidence used to prove intent to sell. However, other items in possession could serve to prove intent, such as packaging materials, large amounts of money and communications from customers.

To be charged with possession with intent to distribute, the accused must be in possession of the drug and the intent to distribute the drug must be proven. While there might be evidence that a defendant has the means and intentions to distribute a large quantity of drugs, if the defendant is not yet in possession of the drugs, that person cannot be charged with possession with intent to distribute.

Understanding the elements of a crime could greatly assist defendants with their defense strategy. Additionally, this could help them suppress evidence, helping them reduce or dismiss some or all of the charges they face. This could ultimately assist the accused avoid harsh penalties.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Possession with the Intent to Distribute," accessed April 4, 2016

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