Drug Charges in Philadelphia PA State Court – PWID

The two most common drug charges or offenses in Philadelphia criminal cases are: Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver.


In order to be found guilty of a crime in Pennsylvania, the District Attorney’s (DA) office must prove each and every element of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt. If the DA’s office fails to prove even one of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant will be found not guilty by the court or by a jury.

In a Philadelphia state court drug case for Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver (PWID), the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements:

  • the item is a controlled substance (i.e., marijuana, crack, cocaine, heroin, prescription drug without an authorized prescription, etc.),
  • the defendant actually possessed the item,
  • the defendant knew or was aware of the item and knew that it was a controlled substance, and
  • the defendant possessed the item with the specific intent to deliver the item to another person or use the item to manufacture a controlled substance.

The first three elements the DA’s office must prove in a PWID drug case are the same as a drug case for Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCS). Click here to learn what the DA has to prove in a PCS drug case in PA. However, in PWID cases, the DA’s office must prove an additional element, the intent or goal of delivering the drugs.


This additional element is where many PWID cases are fought and won by defendants. Proving the specific intent to deliver (selling or otherwise transferring the item) is usually based on circumstantial evidence, i.e., the facts and circumstances surrounding the investigation and arrest. For instance, in clear cut cases, a large quantity of drugs such as cocaine found with 100 small baggies would demonstrate an intent to sell. However, without such evidence, proving intent to deliver can be tricky for the DA’s office.

To illustrate: In Philadelphia, it is common for a drug investigation/arrest to occur at a residence, for example in North or West Philadelphia. There may be multiple people present at the time of the arrest. Depending on the quantity of the drugs present and the investigation, more than one individual may be arrested and charged with drug related offenses, such as PCS with Intent to Deliver. In this kind of situation, one of the individuals arrested may be able to attack the DA’s case, by arguing that they did not intend to actually deliver the drugs. This essentially casts doubt on the intent to deliver element.

In some drug cases, an improper lab test or issue with evidence can result in dismissal of the charges. In addition, it is important to note that some first time offenders who are charged with PWID may be able to enter a special drug treatment program instead of having the case processed through the normal court system. Entry into drug treatment programs is up to the local District Attorney’s office.


If you or a loved one was arrested for a drug related charge in the Philadelphia area, including Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks County or in federal court, please call our criminal lawyers for a free consultation. (215) 515-0042

David S. Nenner is an experienced criminal lawyer who has handled many drug cases in both Pennsylvania state and federal court. He offers a free phone consultation for all drug and gun cases.

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