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How does possession differ from intent to distribute?


In any criminal case, demonstrating intent is a challenge for the prosecution. Nevertheless, Washington State tends to zealously pursue drug charges against individuals for intent to distribute illegal substances. How does the crime of intent to distribute differ from simple drug possession?

Spokane residents who have been charged with a drug crime can learn more about their charges from an experienced criminal defense attorney. In general, drug possession is forbidden by both state and federal law. Possession typically means having drugs physically on a person, such as in their hands or in their pockets, but it can also mean having drugs within a person's control. This may mean drugs found in one's residence or automobile may fall under the purview of drug possession. Usually, a drug possession charge involves the requirement that the person charged with a crime knew the drugs were in that location, be it on themselves or in their control.

Intent to distribute often centers on the amount of an illegal substance discovered by authorities. Since law enforcement can't tell what a person is thinking, they use other factors to conclude that an individual was planning to distribute the drugs. This often involves making the judgment that the amount found was too large for just one individual's use.

Out of the many drug offenses a Washington resident can be charged with, a common allegation is possession with intent to distribute. The elements for both possession and intent to distribute must be present at the same time; however, there are related charges, such as conspiracy, which may not need both elements to occur simultaneously. A Washington drug crimes lawyer can offer information on defenses available for these and other charges.

Source: FindLaw, "Possession with the Intent to Distribute," accessed May 29, 2015

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