Possession vs. Distribution of a Controlled Substance in Maryland
In Maryland, it is a drug crime to possess or distribute a controlled substance. These substances are regulated and controlled due to their addictiveness and potential medical use, if any. Illegal drugs like heroin, cocaine, or marijuana are referred to legally as controlled substances. The criminal punishment changes based on whether a person possessed or distributed a controlled substance.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
The state laws against possession of a controlled substance appear under Maryland Code, Criminal Law Section 5-601. There are two versions of this offense. First, Section 5-601 makes it unlawful to possess or administer a controlled substance, unless pursuant to a valid prescription or similarly authorized medical use.
Second, Section 5-601 makes it unlawful to obtain or attempt to obtain a controlled substance by:
- Deceiving, misrepresenting, or otherwise committing fraud;
- Counterfeiting or altering a valid prescription;
- Concealing material facts that are relevant;
- Providing a false name and/or address;
- Falsely claiming the status of an authorized provider, distributor, or manufacturer; or
- Issuing, making, or presenting a false or counterfeit prescription.
The punishment for unlawful possession of a controlled substance also appears under Section 5-601. Any person who violates this section will face the following penalty scheme:
- First Conviction — Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of 12 months and criminal fines up to $5,000;
- Second/Third Conviction — Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of 18 months and criminal fines up to $5,000; or
- Fourth/Subsequent Conviction — Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of 24 months and criminal fines up to $5,000.
That being said, there are special considerations for unlawful possession of marijuana. Minor infractions involving small amounts of marijuana are punishable as a civil offense with fines ranging from $100 to $500.
Distribution of a Controlled Substance
The state laws against distribution of a controlled substance appear under Maryland Code, Criminal Law Section 5-602. This section makes it unlawful to:
- Distribute or dispense a controlled substance; or
- Possess a controlled substance under circumstances that reasonably indicate an intent to distribute or dispense.
At a threshold level, unlawful distribution or possession with intent to distribute is punishable as a felony offense. As outlined in Maryland Code, Criminal Law Section 5-607, the punishment for this felony includes imprisonment for a maximum of 60 months and criminal fines up to $15,000.
That being said, there are special considerations for distribution crimes involving certain types or quantities of controlled substances. For example, distribution of a Schedule I/II controlled substance — such as heroin or cocaine — typically features a more severe punishment.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal assistance with charges for a drug crime in Maryland, it can be tremendously helpful to contact an adept Bel Air drug crimes attorney. The attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in criminal and family law. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.