In Pennsylvania, section 780-113(a)(30) of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act, prohibits a person from delivering, possessing with the intent to deliver, or manufacturing any controlled substance or counterfeit substance unless licensed by the state. A violation of section 780-113(a)(30) is a felony offense and carries serious criminal penalties that could include jail time and hefty fines. A conviction can also result in the imposition of collateral consequences, such as license suspensions, criminal records, and a lifetime prohibition of the possession of firearms.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Drug Offenses
These felony drug charges also sometimes invoke severe mandatory minimum sentences. The mandatory sentences require total imprisonment, which means that the sentence must be served in a correctional facility and not in the in-home detention program. Examples of mandatory minimum sentences that apply in felony drug cases include:
The mandatory minimum sentences based upon violations of section 780-113(a)(30) only apply to the delivery, possession with intent to deliver, or manufacturing charges, and they do not apply to charges of attempt or conspiracy to commit those acts.
Mandatory Minimum Sentences Are Sentencing Enhancements
People mistakenly believe that a mandatory minimum sentence must be referenced in the charges that are filed by the police or drug detectives. In the past, the district attorney was only required to present evidence to support a mandatory minimum sentence to the judge at the time of sentencing. During the summer of 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision that requires the prosecution to present the applicability of mandatory minimum sentences to a jury, which requires the prosecution to present evidence to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Pennsylvania courts and criminal defense attorneys are still questioning how the recent decision will impact mandatory minimum sentences for drug delivery and possession with intent to deliver cases.
Notice From District Attorney of Intent to Invoke Mandatory Minimum Sentence
While the neither the police nor district attorney need to reference possibly mandatory minimum sentences in the initial charges, the law often requires the prosecutor to provide the drug defendant with notice of intent to invoke a mandatory minimum sentence prior to sentencing, but notice need not be given prior to trial or entry of a plea. This means that a person could plead guilty to or be convicted of a felony drug offense and only discover the possible applicability of a mandatory minimum sentence shortly before sentencing.
Experienced Drug Defense Attorneys Consider Applicable Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Since the prosecutor does not need to provide notice of the possible applicability of a mandatory minimum sentence until shortly before sentencing, it is important to retain an experienced drug defense attorney who is aware of possible mandatory minimum sentences and factor those issues into developing an overall defense strategy. There are times when a person is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony drug charge and learns of the mandatory minimum sentence afterwards.
Criminal defense attorney Jason S. Dunkle has been representing people charged with misdemeanor drug possession charges and felony drug delivery, possession with intent to deliver, and manufacturing charges since 2004. For a free consultation, call the State College criminal defense firm of JD Law, P.C., at 814-954-1094 or contact us by e-mail.