State College Drug Dealers Facing Multiple Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Posted in General on January 12, 2015
According to an article from the Centre Daily Times, two men were arrested in a State College hotel room with a significant quantity of heroin and some synthetic marijuana. Online court docket sheets show that one of the men was charged with three felony counts of Delivery or Possession With Intent to Deliver, one felony count of Conspiracy to Deliver or Possess With Intent to Deliver, one felony count of Criminal Use of a Communication Facility, and three misdemeanor counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance.
State College Drug Delivery Investigation
While the article does not go into much detail about how the arrest occurred, as an experienced State College drug defense attorney, the charges that were filed tell me a lot about what most likely happened in this case. First, how did the police become aware that out-of-town people were in State College with drugs? The Criminal Use of a Communication Facility charge prohibits a person from using a “communication facility,” which is generally a cell phone, to facilitate or setup a crime. I am fairly confident that the State College Police Department used a confidential informant or undercover cop to setup a controlled buy of heroin from the people that were arrested. The drug dealers would have contacted the informant or cop via cell phone calls or text messages, hence the filing of the Criminal Use of a Communication Facility charge. The dealers were probably arrested when the informant proceeded to the hotel room to purchase heroin in what the State College police call a buy-bust. After busting the dealers, the police either obtained consent to search the hotel room from the dealers or obtained a search warrant. A search of the room led to the discovery of the large quantity of heroin and the synthetic marijuana. Based upon the attempted delivery of heroin, the drug dealer would be charged with felony charges of Delivery and Possession With Intent to Deliver, misdemeanor Possession of Heroin, and Criminal Use of a Communication Facility.
After searching the hotel room, the police found additional heroin and the synthetic marijuana. Based upon the quantity of heroin that was found, the State College police filed another felony charge of Possession With Intent to Deliver Heroin, a misdemeanor charge of Possession of Heroin, and a misdemeanor charge of Possession of Synthetic Marijuana.
Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Felony Drug Delivery Charges
In Pennsylvania, the charges of Delivery, Possession With Intent to Deliver, or Manufacturing a Controlled Substance are all contained in the same law in the Drug Code, found at 35 P.S. §780-113(a)(30). A person convicted of those charges can be subject to mandatory minimum sentences if the crime occurred within a “school zone” or involved sufficient quantities of drugs and are thereby considered “drug trafficking.”
The “drug trafficking” mandatory minimum penalties are intended to punish people that deliver or possess with the intent to deliver larger quantities of drugs. The more severe the drug and the larger the quantity of drug involved, the higher the mandatory minimum sentence involved. As one would expect, the penalties for heroin are much greater than those associated with marijuana. The article states that 75 bags of heroin were found but does not give a quantity. While every heroin dealer may put different amounts in a bag, it seems that the general amount in a bag is .1 grams, so ten bags equal 1 gram, which means that 75 bags could be 7.5 grams. If a person delivers or possesses with the intent to deliver at least 5.0 grams but less than 50.0 grams of heroin and does not have a prior conviction of Delivery or Possession With Intent to Deliver, the drug dealer is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of two years incarceration and a $5,000.00 fine. However, if the heroin dealer has a prior conviction of Drug Delivery or Possession With Intent to Deliver, then the mandatory minimum sentence increases to five years incarceration and a $30,000.00 fine.
If my belief is correct that this State College drug investigation started as a controlled buy, the drug dealer could be convicted of Delivery of Heroin based upon the purchase set up between the dealer and the informant, and the dealer could be convicted of Possession With Intent to Deliver Heroin for the quantity that was found in the room. If the dealer was convicted of both charges, the Delivery charge could count as a “prior conviction” and thereby subject the dealer to the substantially increased penalties for repeat offenders.
The “drug-free school zone” mandatory minimum sentence imposes a two year period of incarceration for any person convicted of Delivery, Possession With Intent to Deliver, or Manufacturing that occurred within 1,000 feet of the real property of any public, private or parochial school or a college or university, or within 250 feet of the real property of any recreation center or playground. According to the school zone map that was provided to me by the Centre County District Attorney’s Office, the hotel in question is within a school zone and thus subjects the State College drug defendants to two years in state prison for each conviction of the felony drug charges.
The moral of the story is that if these two drug defendants are convicted, they are facing very severe criminal penalties.