How Possession Differs From Intent To Distribute

Being found with drugs in your possession is always a bad situation. However, you can find yourself in a much worse situation if the prosecutor also believes that you had an intention to distribute the drugs. This type of charge is very serious, and you will need help from an experienced drug crime lawyer.

Drug Crime Basics

Drug crimes refer to crimes that involve controlled substances. Certain substances have been listed as controlled substances and can only be possessed by a doctor or a scientist who is performing research. Law enforcement is also allowed to possess controlled substances for the intent of conducting an investigation or when destroying them.

Basic Distinctions Between Possession and Intent to Distribute

If you are charged with possession, you are being charged with the crime of knowingly having illegal drugs in your control. This could include holding the drugs or having them in a container that you have control over such as a locker. This crime is a misdemeanor. 

If you are accused of intent to distribute, the prosecutor believes that you intended to give the drugs to another party. The most common reason is to redistribute with the intent to sell the drugs. If this is the case, you may be charged with a felony.

How the Prosecutor Knows

Simply possessing a controlled substance is not enough. There must be reasonable suspicion that you intend to distribute. For example, if you possess a larger quantity of controlled substances than you could possibly consume yourself, the prosecutor might infer that you intended to distribute the substance. However, you may argue that you really did intend to consume all of it at some point.

If you are waiting at a location that is commonly used to sell drugs or if the prosecutor uncovers messages that indicate that you were performing a transaction, the prosecutor may charge you with intent to distribute. 

In some cases, you may try to argue that you didn't know the drugs were in your possession, such as if they were found in your home, but some states have a rule that you "should have known" and will reject this defense. 


Your penalties are influenced both by the type of drugs in your possession, the quantity, and whether you intended to distribute. Your penalty can range from a small fine to several decades in prison. Therefore, you should contact a drug crime attorney if you are implicated in any drug crime charges.