What’s the Difference Between Drug Possession and Intent to Distribute Charges?

When you are young and establishing life on your own, whether you are in college or still in your early 20s, you try many new experiences. At some point, you may experiment with drugs– just to see what getting high feels like. If you continue to use drugs recreationally though, at some point you could end up getting busted: either for drug possession or intent to distribute.

But what is the difference between these charges? Are the consequences of them different? Will a conviction ruin your life?

First, you need to understand that everyone makes mistakes in life. Every 25 seconds someone in the United States is arrested for drug possession, equaling about 1.3 million arrests per year. That’s six times the number of those arrested for selling drugs.

Drug possession

In California, possession of controlled substances for personal use is a misdemeanor offense. You can face the following consequences:

  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Up to one year in jail or community service requirements

You will only face a misdemeanor drug charge for marijuana possession if you have more than 28.5 grams on you, if you are under the age of 18 and possess marijuana, or if you possess marijuana on school grounds.

Drug possession with intent to distribute

You may be charged with drug possession with intent to distribute if you have enough substances on you that using all of it wouldn’t be feasible for personal use. Or if you have large amounts in your home or car.

If you have materials to package the drugs, large amounts of money, or communications that indicate you are selling drugs, those factors also can lead to intent to distribute charges.

Drug possession with intent to distribute is a felony charge that comes with serious penalties – in some cases leading to spending years in jail however possessing marijuana for sale is a misdemeanor in California regardless of the amount of marijuana possessed.

Defending against a drug charge

If you end up facing a drug possession or intent to distribute charge, you need to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you honestly didn’t know the drugs were in your car or home, you need to have someone help you dismiss those charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney also can examine your case to see how you might be able to reduce your drug charges so you can have a more favorable outcome.