In order for an individual to be convicted of Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID) in Philadelphia, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual committed the crime. There are legal elements of PWID the prosecution must prove, which are:
- the items seized are illegal drugs or controlled substances;
- the defendant possessed the items;
- the defendant knew that the items are controlled substances/illegal drugs; and
- the defendant intended to deliver or distribute the drugs to another person or use them to manufacture a controlled substance.
Each of the elements provided above must be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the defendant to be convicted.
Defenses to PWID
There are defenses a defendant’s Philadelphia criminal lawyer can present after being charged with PWID.
Defendant Did Not Know About the Drugs
One of the defenses is that the drugs do not belong to the defendant. For instance, the defendant was going to work and discovered that his car had a flat tire. He didn’t want to be late, and the defendant borrowed his roommate’s car. The defendant was in a hurry and failed to stop at a stop sign. As a result, he was stopped by a police officer for a traffic stop. Unbeknownst to the defendant, a bag of cocaine was sitting in the middle console that was visible to the police officer. The officer then seized the bag and searched the car. The officer found a large quantity of cocaine and heroin in the trunk. As a result, the defendant was arrested and charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID).
One of the elements the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the drugs belonged to the defendant. In this instance, it can be argued that the defendant didn’t know about the drugs. He was just borrowing his friend’s car because his car had a flat tire. He was in a hurry and just grabbed his roommate’s car keys, got in the car and drove off because he didn’t want to be late to work.
Drugs Do Not Belong to the Defendant
In addition to arguing that the defendant didn’t know about the drugs, an experienced Philadelphia drug charge lawyer would argue that the drugs did not belong to the defendant. Because the car did not belong to the defendant, the drugs in the car belonged to his roommate and not the defendant.
Lack of Intent
Another defense is that the defendant lacked the intent to distribute or deliver the drugs to another person. A skilled criminal defense lawyer would argue that the police officer did not see the defendant selling drugs. He only pulled the defendant over for a traffic stop. The defendant also did not have a lot of money found on him.
An argument often related to lack of intent is the insufficient quantity of drugs. Using the same above example, let’s assume that the search only yielded the baggie visible to the police officer on the console and a few small bags in the trunk. There is an argument that there is not a sufficient quantity of drugs for the defendant to sell or distribute. Even if the drugs belonged to the defendant, which they do not, there is not enough drugs for the defendant to distribute or deliver to others.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
The last defense we will address is unlawful search and seizure. Again, using the same example, let’s assume there was not a bag of drugs on the console visible to the police officer. However, when the police officer approached the car, the defendant was cursing and rude to the police officer because he was late for work. Based on the defendant’s rude behavior only, the police officer asked the defendant to step out of the car and searched the vehicle. In order to conduct a search after a traffic stop, the police officer needed to have probable cause, which means that the police had to have sufficient factual basis i.e., articulable facts, to form a reasonable belief that an offense had been or was being committed.
In this case, having a snide attitude toward a police officer does not amount to probable cause that an offense was committed or being committed. Therefore, the search and seizure was illegal. Whatever evidence of drugs found in the car as a result of the illegal search would not be able to be used as evidence. Without the drugs, the prosecution cannot show that the drugs belonged to the defendant.
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