Drug abuse and drug addiction, including prescription drug abuse and driving under the influence of drugs, all continue to be major social and legal problems.

That is one reason why the criminal justice system in this state is so harsh on drug crimes and imposes such stiff penalties on those offenders who sell and distribute – and also those who “intend” to sell and distribute – illegal drugs.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW ABOUT DRUG CRIMES?

The first and most important thing to know and remember is that if you are charged with selling or intending to sell illegal drugs in this state, you must be advised and represented by an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney, and you must contact that attorney at once.

In our state, manufacturing, distributing, and intending to distribute a controlled substance are prosecuted and penalized as equally serious crimes.

HOW IS THE INTENTION TO SELL DRUGS PENALIZED IN WASHINGTON?

Possession with the intent to manufacture or distribute an addictive narcotic or amphetamine is prosecuted as a Class B felony in this state, and if sufficient quantities of drugs are involved, a conviction is punishable with a ten-year prison sentence and a $100,000 fine.

The possession with the intent to manufacture or distribute illegal drugs that are not narcotics or amphetamines is usually prosecuted as a Class C felony, and the penalty for a conviction can be a five-year prison term and a fine of up to $5,000.

If firearms or minors are involved in a drug crime in any way whatsoever, the prison sentence may be even lengthier.

CAN YOUR PROPERTY BE SEIZED IF YOU’RE CONVICTED OF A DRUG CRIME?

Along with these penalties, the state of Washington also allows for the forfeiture of property involved in drug crimes.

Law enforcement officials may seize private property if they are able to prove that the property is connected to a drug crime. Vehicles, cash, and even real estate are subject to forfeiture.

WHAT ABOUT THE MARIJUANA LAWS?

Since 2012, the possession of up to one ounce (28 grams) of marijuana by adults for private and personal recreational use has been legal in this state, so the illegal possession of marijuana now carries its own distinct penalties.

Marijuana growers must be licensed by the state, except for medical patients who may grow up to fifteen plants – with a physician’s written recommendation – for personal medical use.

Cannabis retailers must also obtain licenses from the state. The sale of marijuana by any party other than a licensed retailer remains illegal in the state of Washington. The unlicensed cultivation of marijuana for recreational use also remains illegal.

WHAT IS YOUR TOP PRIORITY IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A DRUG CRIME?

Of course, if you are charged with any drug crime, you will need to discuss the possible penalties for that particular charge with your defense attorney.

This cannot be said too strongly: It is absolutely imperative to take your drug case to a trustworthy defense attorney immediately.

Your attorney will explain your rights and legal options and will work to bring your case to its best possible conclusion. If you are innocent, your attorney will move to have the charge or charges dismissed or will argue aggressively for a not guilty verdict if the case goes to trial.

WHEN WILL YOUR ATTORNEY RECOMMEND A PLEA DEAL?

However, if the state’s evidence against you is overwhelming and persuasive, your defense attorney may recommend accepting a plea bargain, and your attorney will negotiate the best possible “deal” on your behalf.

A conviction for a drug crime can literally ruin your life unless you get the right legal help – as quickly as possible – from the right criminal defense lawyer.

Drug crime convictions can still make it difficult to find employment. If you hold a professional license in the state of Washington, a conviction for a drug crime will put that license at risk of suspension or revocation.

HOW DOES THE STATE PROVE THAT YOU “INTENDED” TO SELL DRUGS?

How is the “intention” to sell or distribute illegal drugs proven by a prosecutor? The police do not have to actually catch you selling or distributing an illegal substance to arrest you for “intent.”

The presumption of intent is typically based on the quantity of drugs in a suspect’s possession. Paraphernalia associated with drugs sales – plastic baggies, scales, and similar items – can sometimes mean the difference between a possession charge and an intent charge.

HOW WILL YOUR ATTORNEY DEFEND YOU AGAINST AN INTENT CHARGE?

What arguments can a defense attorney offer to counter an intent charge? Depending on the details of the charge, your lawyer might offer one of these defenses on your behalf:

1. You did not know that the drugs were illegal.
2. You did not know that the drugs were in your possession.
3. The drugs were intended for your personal use; you had no intent to sell.

In any case related to drugs, a good criminal defense lawyer will closely scrutinize the behavior of the law enforcement officers who are involved.

If a defendant’s rights were violated at any point during an investigation, interrogation, search and seizure, or arrest, a defense lawyer will probably file a motion to have the charge or charges dismissed and/or a motion to suppress any evidence illegally obtained by the police.

Do not assume that an arrest automatically means a conviction, especially if the charge is “intent.”

WHAT MUST THE STATE PROVE TO CONVICT YOU?

To convict you of any crime, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers, and the “intent” to sell or distribute an illegal drug is usually much more difficult to prove than the possession or sale of a drug.

Because this state’s drug laws are almost constantly changing, if you are charged with a drug crime, you must be represented by a defense lawyer who routinely defends clients against drug charges and who keeps abreast of the most recent drug law changes and court rulings.

Once again, if you are charged with the intent to sell or distribute illegal drugs in the state of Washington, you must reach out to a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.

Do not let a criminal drug charge steal your freedom or your future. The right to an attorney is fundamental, and if you are accused of a drug crime, your freedom could depend on it.