Cocaine is one of the most commonly used illegal drugs in Maryland. Because of the number of people who die of cocaine-related overdoses in the state each year, the authorities take the crime of cocaine possession especially seriously. Cocaine is classified by the state of Maryland as a Schedule I narcotic, the most serious form of classification. Schedule I narcotics have no medical use in the eyes of the state and are seen as severe public health risks.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our seasoned Maryland cocaine possession defense lawyers have years of experience successfully fighting on behalf of our clients in and outside of the courtroom. We will work with the prosecutor to help them understand that your issue may be addiction, which should be dealt with though treatment rather than incarceration. We will be your advocate and your guide through what can be a terrifying experience. For a free consultation, call us today at (410) 694-7291.
The Difference Between Possession and Possession with the Intent to Distribute in Maryland
There are two different possession-related charges dealing with cocaine in the state of Maryland. The first is an instance where you are in possession of the drug for personal use. Simple possession can be charged if you have any amount of cocaine on your person. It can also be charged if you have cocaine not directly on your person but in an area under your control, like the glove compartment of your car or in your bedroom closet. Even a trace amount of cocaine is enough for this charge to be filed.
The second instance, which is taken even more seriously by the authorities, is possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. This can be harder to prove than simple possession because it requires the prosecution to show that you had the specific mental state of intent. They must demonstrate that you were planning on distributing the cocaine to others, whether through selling it yourself or passing it off to someone else to sell. Most of the time, the way they do this is by pointing to the fact that the amount of cocaine you possessed is far more than would ever be necessary for personal use.
An experienced Maryland cocaine possession defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice can help get a possession with the intent to distribute charge reduced to mere possession by aggressively arguing that the prosecution has not met their burden to prove you had the required intent.
How a Cocaine Possession Charge Plays Out in the Maryland Court System
After you are arrested on a possession or possession with the intent to distribute charge, the first court appearance you will face is what is known as your arraignment. At an arraignment the judge will read the charges against you, advise you of your rights and possible penalties, and ask you to plead guilty or not guilty. It is crucial that you have an attorney by your side at this hearing, as they are likely to advise you to plead not guilty while they request the state’s evidence and assess how strong their case is.
In a case where you are charged with simple possession, if you have no previous criminal history your lawyer will likely begin by asking the prosecution for some sort of deferred prosecution in exchange for you receiving substance abuse treatment. There are two major ways this can happen. First, the prosecutor could allow you to enter into a pre-trial diversion program where, if you complete a substance abuse education program successfully, your charges will be dropped. The second is what is known as probation before judgment. In this case, you will put on probation before any official judgment is entered in your case. Among other conditions, you will have to get substance abuse treatment and keep your probation officer up to date. If you complete probation without violations, the charges will be dropped and no judgment will be entered on your criminal record.
In cases where a deferred prosecution is not possible, our lawyers will negotiate with the prosecutor to work out a plea deal. A plea deal might involve you pleading to a lesser charge in exchange for waiving your right to a trial. It might also involve the prosecutor agreeing to recommend a lenient sentence if you plead guilty to your charge. If a deal cannot be worked out or if you do not wish to plead guilty, our skilled trial attorneys at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice and ready and able to fight for a verdict of not guilty at trial.
Penalties for Cocaine Possession in Maryland
In Maryland, possession is a misdemeanor, while possession with the intent to distribute is a felony. While a felony is more serious, a misdemeanor possession charge can still come with harsh penalties. If convicted, you can face up to 4 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. If convicted of possession of more than 28 grams of cocaine, you can face up to 25 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.
For possession with intent to distribute, a first-time offender faces jail time up to 20 years and fines up to $25,000. If you have prior convictions, the potential jail time and fines increase. If you are convicted of possession with intent to distribute involving 448 grams or more of cocaine, you will have a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years in prison, whether or not it is your first offense.
If You Have Been Charged with Cocaine Possession, Call Our Experienced Defense Lawyers Today
Cocaine possession is a very serious charge that comes with very serious consequences if convicted. While attitudes on addiction are changing throughout the country, unfortunately the Maryland criminal justice system has not always kept up with the pace. You need a skilled Maryland cocaine possession defense attorney on your side to argue to the court that you need treatment, not punishment. We have successfully defended clients against cocaine possession charges throughout Maryland. If you are facing cocaine possession charges, call us today at (410) 694-7291 for a free, confidential consultation about how we can help.