Law Offices of Thomas C. Mooney - Criminal Defense
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Breaking down possession with the intent to distribute

Perhaps you got off the Beltway on your way back to Upper Marlboro and a police officer stopped you for speeding. After talking to you for a couple of minutes, the officer asked you to exit the vehicle. Whether the officer believed he or she had probable cause or asked for your consent, the officer conducted a search of your vehicle.

The officer supposedly found drugs in the vehicle and placed you under arrest on suspicion of possession with intent to distribute. It might help you to have a better understanding of what the crime entails as you begin considering your legal options.


The first part of the crime is possession. You may not realize that you don't have to be physically carrying a controlled substance to face possession charges. Officials must prove that you had personal control over the drugs. For example, the drugs may be in the trunk, but since you drove the vehicle, you had control of the contents of the vehicle.

Of course, Maryland prosecutors will also have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the drugs were there.

Intent to distribute

The second part of the crime is the intent to distribute. As is the case with any other crime, it is not possible for someone else to know your thoughts. However, officials look at other factors to provide evidence that you intended to sell the drugs:

  • The quantity of drugs
  • The presence of drug paraphernalia
  • The presence of large amounts of cash
  • The presence of drug packaging materials

Police may even search your cell phone to determine whether you communicated with people who may be customers.

Possession with the intent to distribute

This charge requires that you both possess one or more controlled substances and that you intended to sell it. Continuing with the prior example, if police found a small quantity of drugs in your vehicle, that could be simply for personal use. In that case, you would probably only face charges of possession.

If the evidence supports a reduction or dismissal of the charges, that would certainly work in your favor since the penalties for possession with the intent to distribute come with substantial prison time ranging from five to 40 years, and significant fines ranging from $15,000 to $1,000,000, depending on the type of drug and the amount.

The totality of the circumstances matters when it comes to drug distribution charges. Don't believe that you have no options just because police took you into custody. You have rights, and protecting them is a top priority. Thereafter, a legal advocate can help you determine your options and the path that leads to the outcome that best serves your interests.

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