FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What is the Possession with Intent to Distribute Charge in Utah?
Possession with Intent to Distribute is a more serious version of Possession of a Controlled Substance. As explained on my Possession page, having any amount of marijuana less than 100 pounds is now only a misdemeanor, but possessing any amount of marijuana “with intent to distribute” is a Third Degree Felony. It is all covered in Utah Statute 58-37-8(1)(a)(iii).
Why was I charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute?
Well, there can be several reasons you were charged with “intent to distribute” instead of just possession. Sometimes, it’s just the amount of drugs. If you have more than an amount which a normal “user” would have for their own use, they will often charge “intent to distribute.” They might also charge “intent to distribute” if the drug is packaged for sale (E.G. it’s in several small plastic baggies), or if it’s found with sale paraphernalia such as scales. Also, when the drugs are found with a large amount of cash, that might also induce the prosecutors to charge “intent to distribute.” If they had direct evidence that you were selling or distributing drugs, they probably wouldn’t charge “intent to distribute,” they would just charge “distribution.”
But remember, just because they charge it, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt (see Possible Defenses, below).
What are the penalties for Possession with Intent to Distribute?
It depends on what the drug and the enhancements. For instance, possession with intent to distribute marijuana is a Third-Degree felony for a first offense. It can become a Second-Degree Felony if it’s a second offense, or if it took place within a Drug Free Zone. It also becomes a more serious matter if a firearm was found along with the drugs. The actual penalty for a conviction in a given case depends on several factors: the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s background, the specifics of the crime, etc. But the maximum penalties for felonies are:
Third-Degree Felony: 0-5 years in Prison, and up to $5,000 fine.
Second-Degree Felony: 1-15 years in Prison, and up to $10,000 fine.
First-Degree Felony: 5-life in Prison, and up to $10,000 fine.
There are also collateral consequences involved with a drug conviction: loss of your Utah driver’s license, loss of federal student aid, and a criminal record which hurts future employment prospects.
What are the possible defenses for a Possession with Intent to Distribute charge?
Because they usually involve traffic stops and searches, drug cases often present 4th and 5th Amendment constitutional issues, such as: did the cops have good enough reason to stop you? did they have good enough reason to detain you after they stopped you? did they have good enough reason to search you or your car without permission? did they get you to say something incriminating before they’d read your Miranda rights? Obviously, these are often highly technical arguments for which it’s critical to have an attorney on your side.
Also, any crime where the prosecution has to prove a state of mind (like “intent”) often provides room for argument. For instance, they often charge “intent to distribute” based on the amount of drugs, but if you can convince the judge or jury that those drugs were for personal use, then you are not guilty of “intent to distribute” (but you would be guilty of possession).
I got charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute in Utah, but I live out of state.
This actually comes up a lot, because these cases are frequently the result of traffic stops on the highway, and the defendants are folks just travelling through Utah, with no intention of staying and no intention of willingly coming back. With Misdemeanor charges, an attorney can often help resolve the cases without the defendant having to travel back to Utah at all. With felony charges, it’s more difficult, but an attorney can certainly help minimize the amount of times you have to travel back to Utah to deal with the case, and sometimes without you having to come back at all.
What do I do if I’ve been charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute in Utah?
Obviously, I’m an attorney, so I’m going to recommend you hire an attorney, but I truly do think it’s worth the investment. Many of the defenses for Possession with Intent to Distribute are technical legal arguments which only a defense attorney will see and be able to effectively present. Even if there’s not a great way to “fight” the case, a good defense attorney can minimize your stress, minimize your travel back to Utah, and minimize your penalties as much as possible. Feel free to contact me for a free consultation about your case, if you’ve been charged with ANY drug crime in Utah.