Drug Possession and Distribution
It is illegal to possess controlled dangerous
substances in Maryland. A controlled
dangerous substance is any one of a number of different chemical compounds that
have been identified by the state as illegal to possess. In addition, a controlled dangerous substance
includes chemicals that are immediate precursors to those that are identified
by the state.
It is also illegal to possess controlled
paraphernalia. Controlled paraphernalia
are items that are used to contain, distribute or use controlled dangerous
substances (CDS). These can include
hypodermic syringes, needles or other objects adapted to administer CDS; a
gelatin capsule, glassine envelope, or other container suitable for packing
individual quantities of CDS. It also
includes lactose, quinine, mannite, mannitol, dextrose, sucrose, procaine
hydrocholoride, or any other substance used as a dilutant or adulterant.
Quite often, the ability to successfully
defend a drug possession charge will turn on the meaning of the word
possess. For purposes of criminal law
enforcement, “to possess” means to exercise actual or constructive dominion or
control over a thing by one or more persons.
Maryland law classifies CDS according to
different schedules based on the danger that they present as well as their
medical utility. Schedule I drugs such
as heroin are extremely dangerous and are not approved for medical use. Schedule II drugs can be extremely dangerous
if used improperly but have some medical uses as well. Schedule II drugs include powerful medicines
such as codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and oxymorphone. As you move down the chart of schedules, the
substances generally become less toxic.
Of course, no controlled substance should ever be taken without a
It is a crime to possess a CDS without a valid
prescription. It is also a crime to
obtain or attempt to obtain, or to attempt to procure the administration of a
CDS where not medically authorized. This
includes obtaining CDS by fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, counterfeiting or
altering a written prescription, concealing a material fact, using a false name
or address, impersonating a manufacturer, prescriber or authorized distributor,
making or presenting a false or counterfeit prescription.
Unlawful possession of CDS is a misdemeanor in
Maryland. It carries a maximum penalty
of four (4) years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000. Marijuana is still a CDS in the state,
however, the criminality is dependent upon the amount that is possessed. Possession of over 10 grams of marijuana is a
misdemeanor which carries a maximum of one (1) year in jail and a maximum fine
of $1,000. Possession of smaller amounts
of marijuana is a civil offense which carries a fine but no jail time. A person who is under the age of twenty-one
who is found to be in possession of marijuana must also obtain a substance
abuse assessment and may be ordered to obtain treatment by the court.
It is illegal to distribute or dispense a
CDS. It is also unlawful to possess a
CDS in sufficient quantity reasonably to indicate under all circumstances an
intent to distribute or dispense a CDS.
The general penalty for possession of CDS with intent to distribute is
$15,000 and five years in jail. It is a
felony. Certain drugs, such as narcotics
carry steeper penalties, including longer jail terms and higher fines.
Probably the most common way to mount a
successful defense on a drug charge is to have the drug evidence thrown out
prior to trial. Drug cases can be
effectively won or lost before the first witness is sworn or before the
attorneys make their opening statements.
In defending drug cases, the attorneys at Baldwin & Briscoe will
look for opportunities to suppress damaging evidence, either physical evidence
or statements that are made by the defendant at the time of the arrest. Whenever there are appropriate grounds, we’ll
file a motion to suppress the evidence with the court. In a recent case we had a client who was
stopped with a large amount of marijuana in his vehicle and did not have a
driver’s license. He was facing five
years in jail and a $15,000 fine, not to mention a felony on his permanent
record. Because of our well-argued
motion to suppress, the state reduced the charges to sending/reading a text
message while driving and dismissed all of the criminal charges. Our client paid a $70 fine and the case was
When looking at drug cases, they almost always
involve a search. Police might search a
defendant’s home, car, or person and find incriminating evidence. The police can only use this evidence at
trial if they conduct the search properly.
If they conduct the search improperly, the court, if the defendant
requests, will suppress the evidence obtained and the prosecutor cannot use it
at trial. Knowing when and how to ask
the court to suppress evidence is critical to successfully defending drug
Generally, an officer can conduct a search
under the following circumstances:
obtaining a search warrant signed by a judge
the consent of the person who owns the property being searched
there is probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be found in
the area to be searched combined with exigent circumstances that make obtaining
a search warrant impossible or impractical
limited search of an area within the reach, lunge, or grasp of an arrestee
In some cases, such as the one identified
above, the officer may have the right to conduct a limited search, but the
officer extends the search beyond the permissible scope. In those cases, the
state will be able to introduce any evidence that is found during the valid
portion of the search, while evidence obtained outside of the valid search will
Under the Fourth Amendment to the United
States Constitution, individuals have a right to be secure in their homes and
in the vehicles. This includes the right
to be free from unlawful searches and seizures.
When the government violates that right, the remedy is that any evidence
obtained in violation of the right is excluded from use at trial. In order to obtain the remedy, however, it
must be argued by the defendant or his attorney.
If you are facing charges for possession of a
controlled-dangerous substance or possession with intent to distribute a
controlled dangerous substance, it is important to contact an experienced
criminal attorney early in your case so that the attorney can investigate and
file a motion to suppress evidence. The
attorneys at Baldwin & Briscoe have years of experience litigating drug
possession and distribution charges.
There is no fee for a consultation on a pending criminal charge.
The information contained on this page is
provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice. The experienced attorneys at Baldwin &
Briscoe, P.C. can assist you if you are facing drug charges or any other
criminal mater. We’d be happy to sit down
with you and review your situation and provide appropriate advice. Call today for your free, no-obligation
consultation. All consultations are
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