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What constitutes intent to distribute?

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2022 | Drug Charges, Drug Sales & Distribution |

The state and federal governments break down laws to a granular level. There are also gradations of appropriate penalties for misdemeanors and felonies. Making matters more confusing, there are charges like assault and battery, which are similar but with specific differences. So, it’s no surprise that intent to distribute involves some particular details. The charges usually involve possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell or distribute. They often go together, but they are separate.

What is possession?

Possession means to knowingly have control of illegal drugs. It can apply to drugs in your pockets or backpack, but it can also involve drugs located in your car or home.

Intent to distribute is less clearcut

This charge is harder for the prosecution to define and prove because they must prove that the accused possessed the illegal drugs and intended to distribute or sell them. The prosecutor cannot read the mind of the accused, so they build a case by examining the circumstances around the possession. The basic thresholds to establish intent to distribute include:

  • The accused possesses the drugs.
  • The accused has far more than they would for personal use.
  • The accused has materials commonly used for distributing the drugs.
  • The accused has large amounts of cash.
  • There is evidence of communication from alleged customers.

If the accused does not possess the drugs, the above evidence will not lead to a conviction for intent to distribute. However, the prosecution may still charge for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute or attempt to possess with intent to distribute.

The charges

Legal charges are based on the amount of drugs and the potential harm and likelihood for addiction. The drugs fall into two categories when the charge is intent to distribute:

Schedule 1: These are the most dangerous drugs, including heroin, LSD, marijuana, mescaline, and peyote.

Schedule 2: These drugs have legitimate medical uses but are highly addictive. These include amphetamines, cocaine, methadone, methamphetamines, and opium.

The prosecution will then apply Colorado’s sentencing guidelines, involving Class 3, Class 4, or Class 5 felonies for more severe charges or misdemeanor less severe charges.

The accused can fight these charges

The good news is that it can be difficult to establish intent to distribute. Moreover, an experienced criminal attorney can fight to protect the defendant’s rights and ensure they were not violated during the investigation or arrest. In doing so, they may try to dismiss or reduce the charges, which can eliminate or lessen the penalties.