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What is possession with the intent to distribute?

Being caught with drugs in your possession is not a good predicament to find yourself in. However, such a troubling matter doesn't always mean that an individual will be convicted of a drug crime. It does, nonetheless, likely mean that the individual will be faced with drug charges. The severity of the charge is dependent on the type of drug authorities found the accused in possession of, and how much of the drug is in that person's possession. If the quantity is high enough, the accused could face allegations of the intent to distribute that drug.

What is possession with the intent to distribute? Based on federal law, this drug crime is punishable by fines and imprisonment and occurs when the accused is in possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute that substance. In order to best understand the elements of this drug charge, it is helpful to break it down into three parts.

To begin with, possession happens when an individual knowingly obtains or receives a controlled substance or had knowledge of the presence of the drugs and failed to get rid of them. Next, the intent to distribute occurs when an individual is planning or intending to distribute or sell an illegal drug. Indication of this happens when the individual is possessing drug paraphernalia, packaging materials, large amounts of money and communications from customers.

Possession with the intent to distribute cannot occur unless both the possession and intent to distribute elements have been met and occurred at the same time. However, in cases of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and attempt to possess with the intent to distribute, it could be proven that these crime occurred if the elements of possession with the intent to distribute couldn't be met.

Like any crime, the prosecution has the burden to prove the elements of the charge. Additionally, the evidence used in the case must have been collected legally. If a defendant believes that evidence was collected following an unlawful search and seizure, they could use that to file a motion to suppress evidence.

No matter the severity of the crime, a defendant is afforded the right to a criminal defense. Those unsure of their rights and options should take the time to understand their situation and how to move forward.

Source:, "Possession with the Intent to Distribute," accessed April 1, 2017

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