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Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

When is a drug infraction simple possession vs. possession with intent?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Drug Crimes |

Missouri has relatively strict laws regarding controlled substances. State laws regulate both prohibited drugs used by people recreationally and controlled substances available with a prescription from a physician.

When people get arrested for a drug offense, they often hope that the state pursues the least serious charges possible. Unfortunately, prosecutors often do the exact opposite of what defendants might hope. They pursue the most serious charges that they can justify given the circumstances. They may even try to pursue multiple different charges for a single incident.

Someone caught with drugs on their person might hope to face possession charges, but prosecutors might accuse them of possession with intent to distribute the drugs to others. What separates a basic possession charge from a possession with intent case?

Simple possession involves personal use

The main difference between simple possession and possession with intent is what the state believes someone might do with the drugs found in their possession. Simple possession cases typically involve a single substance found in limited quantities. So long as the state has no reason to question the assertion that an individual possessed those drugs for their own consumption, the state might pursue simple possession charges. However, prosecutors could also bring possession with intent charges in certain scenarios.

Perhaps police officers discovered a variety of different drugs in someone’s possession. That could seem like a situation in which someone wanted to sell those drugs to others. The same is true of cases involving a large volume of a specific drug. Other times, someone’s activity on social media, such as sharing memes about drug trafficking, could raise questions about their intentions with the drugs found in their possession. Even certain types of paraphernalia, such as scales to weigh drugs and packaging, could lead to claims that someone intended to sell small amounts of those drugs to others.

Possession with intent is a more serious charge

Simple possession can sometimes be a misdemeanor offense depending on the type of drugs found and the total weight of the drugs. Even someone’s prior criminal record could influence how the state handles a case of simple possession. Possession with intent charges, like trafficking charges, almost always result in felony prosecution. Individuals may face not just more serious charges but also longer-lasting penalties and a more damaging criminal record when accused of possession with intent.

Thankfully, there are defense options available to those accused of possessing controlled substances with (or without) the intent of distributing them to others. Reviewing the evidence gathered prior to an individual’s arrest with the guidance of a skilled legal team can help a defendant to evaluate their options for fighting their pending drug charges. Those who can raise questions about the state’s claims can potentially avoid a conviction that could forever alter their opportunities in life.