In Drug-Related Crimes, How Do the Police Distinguish Between Possession and Intent to Sell?
Interviewer: If you encounter police and you have drugs on you, how do they determine if you’re intending to sell it or if you just have it for personal use? What factors are involved?
Stuart Austin: That’s actually a good question. Really, the answer is, and I hate to say this, but it’s how much the officers want to give you a hard time; don’t argue with them. The real two factors that are looked at by the law are the weight of it and the packaging.
For instance, if we’re talking about pills and you had 4 pills in your possession, that’s personal use. If you had 20 pills, you could say that’s personal use also, but if the 20 pills are packaged individually in bags, two pills in a bag each of 10 bags, then they’re going to say, “That’s not personal use, that looks like the packaging for something else.”
Any Paraphernalia You Possess Could Upgrade a Charge from Possession to Intent to Sell
Another issue is sometimes when they find the drugs they are located right next to a scale or other object. That alerts the officers to the fact that even if it’s not packaged yet, you’re getting ready to put it out for sale.
An Experienced Defense Attorney Will Try to Refute the Charge
Interviewer: It’s very circumstances-dependent and it can be argued back and forth a lot of different ways, right?
Stuart Austin: Correct. That’s really what is very fact-specific and you want to be able to argue that these things can be also used for personal use. For somebody who may have a scale, they may want to find out how much they’re doing. I hate to use this example, but somebody on Weight Watchers or another diet program, who is trying to control their weight, may have their own personal scale to weigh their food.