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One of the opium derivatives, heroin is illegal in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Listed under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, heroin typically comes in a powder form, which users either snort or dissolve in liquid to inject.
Heroin use across America has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to the public's growing dependency on opioids, otherwise known as prescription painkillers. People who become addicted to these prescriptions often turn to heroin when they are no longer able to obtain these prescription pills.
What Constitutes Heroin Possession?
In legal terms, "possession" is more than owning, controlling, or having an item, especially as refers to narcotics like heroin.
To obtain a possession conviction, the prosecution must prove both possession and knowing. What's more, there are two types of heroin possession: simple possession and constructive possession.
Simple possession is when you knowingly have heroin under your physical control. This may mean on your person, such as carried in a pocket, or held in a piece of property, such as a bag, vehicle, or home. The "knowingly" qualification means that you must be aware that you are in possession of heroin. For example, if you are arrested for possession and the heroin was in a bag you borrowed from a friend, or transported for a friend, the state would have to prove that you knew the bag contained heroin.
This charge does not necessarily require proving that you knew heroin was an illegal substance. The state also does not have to prove that you actually used the heroin found in your possession.
Constructive possession is a federal charge, in which federal law interprets that you legally had control over the drug. In essence, this is the same definition as simple possession; the terminology is simply specific to a federal charge.
What are the Penalties for a Federal Heroin Possession Conviction?
If the arresting officer is with a federal agency, this means you face federal charges for heroin possession. No matter which state you live in, federal laws and penalties apply.
- If you have no prior narcotic possession convictions (either federal or state), the maximum sentence is one year in prison. The minimum fine is $1,000.
- One prior conviction for narcotic possession carries a minimum sentence of 15 days, with a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The minimum fine is $2,500.
- If you have two or more prior possession convictions, you face a minimum of 90 days in prison, and minimum fines of $5,000.
All penalties depend greatly on the amount of heroin you are charged with possessing. If you are charged with possession with intent to sell or distribute, the penalties go up considerably.
What are the Penalties for a State Heroin Possession Conviction?
If your arrest was by a state, city, county, or other local agency, you face prosecution in a local court, with penalties determined by the state prosecuting the case.
Penalties vary based on the amount of heroin you are charged with possessing, as well as other factors, such as whether you have any prior drug convictions. As with federal penalties, if you are charged with possession with intent to sell, or if you have prior convictions for narcotics possession (whether for heroin or another controlled substance), you face much stiffer penalties.
- Ohio bases penalties on the amount of heroin possessed. Charges for possessing less than 1 gram carry a minimum sentence of six months in jail, with a maximum sentence of 12 months. You may also pay up to $2,500 in fines. Possession of 1 to 5 grams comes with a maximum sentence of 18 months and fines up to $5,000. At the far end of the scale is possession of 250 grams or more, carrying a minimum sentence of 11 years and maximum fines of $20,000.
- Connecticut levies harsher penalties on repeat offenders. A first offense conviction carries a maximum sentence of 7 years and up to $50,000 in fines. A second offense is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. Subsequent offenses carry sentences up to 25 years and fines up to $250,000.
Some states are enacting stricter laws in an effort to combat the growing heroin epidemic.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you have been charged with heroin possession, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney, preferably one with a background defending narcotics cases. Schedule a free, confidential consultation today to determine your next steps. Bring all relevant documentation to your consultation to ensure your attorney has the facts he or she needs to evaluate your case.