Possession with Intent to Distribute in Minnesota
2 months ago by Brian
A charge for possession with intent to distribute arises when an individual is found in possession of a controlled substance and law enforcement officers suspect that the individual intended to sell it.
If convicted, the consequences include imprisonment, substantial fines, and a felony record that can hinder employment opportunities and college admission. Therefore, you need to obtain legal representation to fight a drug charge.
Even for a first offense, the potential penalties can be severe, including up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $1,000,000.
A lighter charge, or a fifth-degree drug felony, carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and fines that range up to $100,000.
That is why engaging the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney is necessary, if not crucial. Not only can it improve your chances of avoiding a conviction, but it can also reduce stiffer charges and penalties.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
When evaluating this charge, it is essential to consider three elements:
- Intent to distribute, and
- Possession with intent to distribute.
Possession refers to the act of having an illegal drug in one’s possession, whether for personal use, distribution, sale, or other purposes. However, for an individual to be charged with this offense, they must be aware of the presence of the drug. They must have knowingly obtained or received the controlled substance.
Intent to distribute occurs when an individual plans to distribute or sell a controlled substance. This requires evidence that the accused had the intention of engaging in this activity. This may include possessing a large quantity of drugs, drug paraphernalia, or substantial sums of money from drug sales.
Possession with intent to distribute requires all the elements mentioned above. This means that an individual must have knowingly possessed a controlled substance, intended to distribute it, and sold the controlled substance that they possessed.
It is important to note that a person may have the intention to distribute drugs without actually having possession of the controlled substances. This may lead to a charge of conspiracy or attempted distribution.
Depending on the type and quantity of the drug involved, someone charged with possession with intent to distribute can easily face severe penalties.
That’s why you need legal help in these cases. An attorney will challenge specific aspects of your case, which can reduce the charge or even lead to a dismissal.
How a First-Degree Offense of Possession is Defined: A More In-depth Look
The offense of possession of a controlled substance in the first degree ( per Minn. Stat. § 152. 21) encompasses the following:
- Possession of narcotics in an amount of at least 50 grams ( or over 25 grams if a firearm is involved) consisting of methamphetamine or cocaine.
- Possession of a narcotic heroin mixture weighing 25 grams or more.
- Possession of a mixture(s) weighing 500 grams or more containing a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, or meth.
- Possession of a mixture(s) weighing 500 grams or more containing amphetamine, phencyclidine, or a hallucinogen, or 500+ dosing units of the same.
- Possession of a mixture(s) weighing 50 kilograms or more containing marijuana or possessing 500 or more marijuana plants.
Minnesota statutes define drug possession broadly, stating that it includes situations where the defendant had exclusive control over a place that others could not access. Or, if the drugs were found in a place where others had access, the defendant knowingly exercised control over these individuals.
Sale of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree: A Closer Look
The sale of a controlled substance in the first degree (Minn. Stat. § 152. 21) encompasses the following:
- Sale of a mixture(s) weighing 17 grams or more (10 grams or more if a gun is also involved) containing cocaine or methamphetamine.
- Sale of a narcotic heroin mixture weighing 10 grams or more.
- Sale of a mixture weighing 50+ grams containing a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, or meth.
- Sale of a mix of 50+ grams containing amphetamine, phencyclidine, or a hallucinogen, or the sale of 200+ dosing units of the same.
- Sale of a mix weighing 25 kilograms or more containing marijuana.
Aggravated First-Degree Controlled Substance Offense
To qualify as an aggravated first-degree controlled substance offense (Minn. Stat. § 152. 21, subdivision 2(b)), the offense must involve:
- The sale or possession of 100+ grams of cocaine, heroin, meth, heroin, or similar narcotic or hallucinogen. If packed in dosing units, it must involve 500+ units of amphetamine, PCP, or a hallucinogen.
- The presence of two or more aggravating factors (such as a prior controlled substance offense, sale to a person under the age of 18, or an offense committed for the benefit of a gang) or the possession or use of a firearm.
A conviction for an aggravated first-degree controlled substance offense carries severe consequences. All convictions entail a mandatory minimum sentence, which must be either 86 months or the presumptive guideline sentence, whichever is greater.
Before a lawyer can assess the defense of your case, they have to review the prosecutor’s view of the indictment and how they’re planning to show intent.
A prosecutor might argue that the defendant, at the time of the arrest, showed intent in the following ways:
- They had large quantities of individually packaged drugs in their possession. The more drugs in separate baggies, the more it looks like they were packaged for sale and distribution.
- Scales, baggies, or other drug paraphernalia were discovered inside the defendant’s residence. These items suggest drugs were being weighed, packaged, and prepared for distribution and sale.
- Text messages, call records or witness statements that indicate drug dealing. Communications that discuss drug sales, deliveries, pick-ups, drop-offs, or transactions can be used as evidence of intent to distribute.
- The discovery of cash in small bills. Large amounts of cash, especially in small denominations, suggest proceeds from multiple drug sales.
- Defendant statements. Any statements that the defendant makes regarding drug sales or distribution to law enforcement can be used against them. If you’re charged with possession with intent to distribute, you should remain silent. Don’t say anything without speaking to a criminal defense attorney first.
While the charges against you may be serious, a skilled attorney can challenge the prosecution’s evidence or argue that it fails to definitively prove your intent.
The key is to develop a strong, multi-pronged legal defense strategy focused on discrediting the prosecution’s case against you.
With hard work and the right strategy, it is possible to beat a possession with intent to distribute charge.
Common Defenses Against Possession With Intent Charges
There are several effective defenses commonly used in possession with intent to distribute cases.
Lack of Intent to Distribute
Simply possessing drugs is not enough to prove intent to distribute. The prosecution must show evidence that you intended to sell the drugs – using proof in the form of packaging materials, scales, owe sheets, or testimony from informants. If there is little evidence along these lines, you may be able to get the charges reduced or dropped.
Illegal Search and Seizure
If the police conducted an illegal search of your home, vehicle, or person and found the drugs that way, the evidence may be suppressed. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Your attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence if your rights were violated in this respect.
The prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is weak, circumstantial, or inconsistent, you have a good chance of acquittal or getting charges reduced. Eyewitness testimony, informant testimony, and circumstantial evidence, like fingerprints, are not always reliable enough for a conviction.
If the prosecution’s case hinges on eyewitness identification, the ID procedure used must be fair and non-suggestive. If a witness incorrectly identified you, it significantly damages the prosecution’s case.
Your attorney can challenge the ID process through cross-examination and presenting evidence of its unreliability.
Make Sure You Have a Fighting Chance Legally
With a skilled criminal defense lawyer building a case using one or more of these defenses, you have a fighting chance to avoid a possession with intent to distribute conviction or at least get lesser charges and a lighter sentence. The key is to craft a defense targeting the weaknesses in the prosecution’s arguments and evidence.
Obtaining the Services of an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney: What to Expect
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical to successfully beating a possession with intent to distribute charge. Their knowledge of the complex laws surrounding drug charges, as well as their defense experience, can make all the difference.
Look for an attorney who has practiced criminal defense for many years and has a proven track record of achieving favorable outcomes for clients facing drug charges. They will be up-to-date with the latest case law and defense strategies. That way, they can build the strongest possible defense for your case.
An experienced attorney can analyze the details of your arrest and the evidence against you as well. That way, they can identify any procedural issues or weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
They know how to challenge the legality of a search, question the credibility of witness statements, and argue against excessive bail and sentencing. Their skill in cross-examining police officers and expert witnesses can be pivotal in your legal defense.
With their knowledge of reasonable doubt and burden of proof, a veteran criminal defense lawyer can negotiate with the prosecution to get charges reduced or dropped.
If your case goes to trial, they’ll know how to present reasonable doubt, thereby maximizing the chance of an acquittal or hung jury. Their familiarity with the local courts and prosecutors can also work to your advantage.
While the cost of hiring a private attorney may seem high, the alternative of being found guilty of a felony drug charge or facing years of incarceration and a criminal record is far more devastating over time.
With an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for you, you can avoid these consequences by taking a positive step forward and getting back to living your life.
A Quick Overview: 5 Reasons Why You Need to Contact a Drug Defense Attorney Now
So, let’s quickly review and enumerate the key reasons to contact an attorney.
An Attorney Has a Keen Understanding of the State’s Drugs Law
Drug laws vary from state to state and can become quite involved. By working with an attorney, you’ll better understand your charges. An attorney can communicate the relevant statutes or case law applicable to your situation.
A Lawyer Can Negotiate a Plea Deal
One of the most valuable skills a drug defense lawyer possesses is negotiating plea deals on your behalf. Possessing an in-depth understanding of the prosecutor’s strategies and how drug cases typically unfold enables them to negotiate better terms that you can’t achieve on your own. This can lead to reduced charges, shorter sentences, or alternative rehab programs instead of jail time.
An Attorney Will Challenge the Evidence – Including Unlawful Searches
A proficient drug defense lawyer knows how to effectively challenge evidence that is presented against you in court. They can evaluate whether the evidence was obtained legally and identify any mistakes made during the arrest or collection process. This can help weaken the prosecution’s case.
Count on a Lawyer to Offer Guidance and the Needed Support
Facing drug charges can be a daunting experience. After all, the potential consequences can have long-lasting effects on your life. A skilled drug defense lawyer provides some much-needed guidance as well as emotional support throughout a difficult process.
They help alleviate some of the stress by ensuring that all the paperwork is filed properly and by keeping you informed about your case’s progress. Their experience also offers critical insights into what you can expect at every stage of the legal process.
A Lawyer Can Enhance Your Chances of a Favorable Outcome
Above all, hiring a drug defense lawyer not only helps to protect your rights but also significantly enhances the possibility of a favorable outcome.
Contact a Drug Defense Lawyer and Schedule a No-Obligation Consultation
Drug charges are serious. In Minnesota, contact an experienced drug defense lawyer and schedule an appointment today. Call JS Defense to learn more about your rights and to schedule a no-obligation consultation now.