Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    Philadelphia Drug Charge Q&A: What sentence are you facing?

    Question: I was arrested for dealing drugs in Philadelphia. What is the maximum sentence I face?

    Answer: In Pennsylvania criminal drug cases, the possible mandatory sentence will depend on proof of certain facts, such as:

    • whether a gun was found within the vicinity of the drugs,
    • the type and amount of the drugs, and
    • where the transactions allegedly occurred.

    For example, selling drugs near a school zone may result in a mandatory 2 year (up to 4 year) prison sentence, as well as large court fines and costs.

    Related: Arrested for Drugs in Pennsylvania? Read About PA’s Mandatory Minimum Sentences

    Below are some common criminal sentencing laws which come into play in a criminal state court drug case in Philadelphia:

    • 18 Pa.C.S. Section 6317 (drug-free school zone sentencing law)
    • 18 Pa.C.S. Section 6314 (selling drugs to minors)
    • 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9712.1 (firearm sentencing enhancement law)

    Pennsylvania criminal law was changed in a significant way this past year. As the result of a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case, Alleyne v. United States, sentencing factors must now be submitted to the fact finder, i.e., the jury in a jury trial or the judge in a court trial and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, when a mandatory minimum sentence is under consideration, the Commonwealth (District Attorney) is now required to prove the element triggering the mandatory minimum sentence beyond a reasonable doubt.

    More: Philadelphia Criminal Drug Charges, Suppressing Drug Evidence & Incriminating Statements

    For instance, in a firearm drug case involving a mandatory minimum sentence under Section 9712.1, the relevant sentencing factor is defined in subsection (a), which states:

    “when at the time of the offense the person or the person’s accomplice is in physical possession or control of a firearm, whether visible, concealed about the person or the person’s accomplice or within the actor’s or accomplice’s reach or in close proximity to the controlled substance…”

    This basically means that there must be evidence of the following:

    1. the defendant or an accomplice possessed a gun,
    2. a gun was in close proximity to the defendant/accomplice, or
    3. a gun was in close proximity to the drugs.

    Prior to the Alleyne case, Pennsylvania courts only required that these types of sentencing factors be proved at sentencing and by a preponderance of the evidence, a far lower standard than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. As a result of the Alleyne case, the Commonwealth is required to prove these factors beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to do so results in violation of a criminal defendant’s 14th Amendment (due process) and 6th Amendment (jury trial) rights.

    Facing Drug Charges in Philadelphia?  Get a Free Case Review

    David S. Nenner is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who focuses on handling drug, gun and murder cases in the Philadelphia area. Learn more about our drugs and narcotics practice in Pennsylvania. If you or a loved one would like a free case review, please call (215) 564-0644.

    Disclaimer: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. Our lawyers provide legal advice only after accepting a case. It is imperative that any action taken is done on advice of counsel. Read full disclaimer below.

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"

    Not guilty on 1st Degree MURDER CHARGE (dec. 2022, Pottsville, Pa)

    Mr. Nenner's client faced first degree murder, third degree murder and various other charges. The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Whitted stabbed and killed a driver after an incident at a red light in West Brunswick Township. Throughout the trial, Mr. Nenner argued...

    MURDER, Att. Murder CHARGES – Negotiated Significantly Lower prison sentence (Feb. 2022, PHILA)

    Mr. Anderson faced murder and attempted murder charges after an incident in Northeast Philadelphia involving the shooting death of Anderson’s sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s roommate who was shot 5 times and survived. The decedent had previously beaten the...


    The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Shelton shot and seriously injured a male in a bar in North Philadelphia called Circles. There was video of the shooting which happened outside the bar. However, Mr. Nenner presented witnesses who testified that the person in the bar...


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Charges in Philadelphia PA State Court – Possession of a Controlled Substance

    In most criminal drug cases in Philadelphia, there are two common charges or offenses: Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver. In addition to these drug charges, there are other drug related charges, such...

    Drug Charges in Philadelphia PA State Court – What is “Possession”

    Page last reviewed and updated: October 20, 2019 One of the most common types of criminal state (PA) cases in Philadelphia is possession of drugs. Possession of a Controlled Substance (PCS) and Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver (PWID) often...

    Pennsylvania Second Degree Murder (AKA: Felony Murder) Law

    Philadelphia criminal lawyer David S. Nenner discusses the current status of second degree murder law in Pennsylvania. This is also known as the felony murder rule. Get info about PA court decisions and the agency theory. Not every case of death during the commission of a felony will result in a second degree murder conviction in PA.

    Philadelphia Murder Cases – Police Investigation Tactics

    Questioning Police Officer Tactics in Philadelphia Murder Cases Within the last 10 years, there have been several murder Philadelphia criminal cases in which the accused individuals were acquitted of the crimes. In these cases, the individuals spent months, if not...

    Murder Charges in Pennsylvania – Murder Law in Pennsylvania

    An explanation of Pennsylvania murder laws including Section 2502. What is murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree and murder in the third degree. Get a summary of the definitions under Pennsylvania criminal law.