The criminal charge of Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID) is often a scam police and prosecutors use to make money for the government. The government cannot apply forfeiture to a defendant’s property and money if they only charge the defendant with simple possession of marijuana. So, they overcharge a defendant, who merely possesses marijuana with no intent to deliver, with PWID in order to justify the seizure and forfeiture of the defendant’s property and money. To make matters worse, property and money unrelated to the marijuana offense may be seized as part of the forfeiture as well.
So, the question is, why would the government do this? Because once they seize and forfeit the defendant’s property and money, they can keep it or sell it. This “scam” of overcharging a defendant with PWID is nothing less than legal, government-endorsed extortion.
How does the government get away with this abuse of power? Unfortunately, the legislature has not created a bright-lined amount of marijuana that a defendant must to possess in order to be charged with PWID. This means the decision to charge a defendant with either just simple possession or PWID is completely left to the police officer’s and prosecutor’s discretion. It should come as no surprise that they are often of the opinion that a defendant possessing even small amounts of marijuana for personal use was intending to distribute.
Of course a victim of this government-endorsed extortion has a right to contest the forfeiture of the property and money by posting a bond. Unfortunately, most forfeitures are not worth fighting because of the costs associated with attorney fees and time. This is why most people who are charged with PWID do not demand a trial and often plead guilty – out of fear and a lack of money.
This “scam” does not end once the defendant is overcharged with PWID. If the defendant does choose to go to trial, the prosecutor continues this abuse of power by having the police officer involved on the case recognized as an “expert” in street-level narcotics dealing. The prosecutor then has the “expert” testify that the defendant was possessing with intent to deliver based upon the amount of marijuana in addition to other factors such as, a scale and packaging. This is bogus. It is common knowledge that marijuana, like everything else, is cheaper in bulk. So, of course, a heavy user is going to purchase in quarter or half pounds. Additionally, most heavy users purchase in quantity to ensure that they have an uninterrupted supply. The “expert” testifies that a heavy user will smoke 6 joints that weigh 0.5 grams a day, based upon post-arrest interviews. The “expert” always says that marijuana has a shelf-life and that the quantity that the defendant had exceeds the shelf-life; therefore, the defendant must have been distributing. The officer can never give any definitive opinions as to how the marijuana has deteriorated or changed over its shelf-life, which most will say is 2 months, because the officer is NOT an expert! Of course, the “expert” will never admit to having smoked marijuana; so, all of his information is from interviewing people he has arrested.
People who purchase marijuana for their own use in bulk often own a scale to weigh their purchase so they do not get ripped off. So, contrary to the police and prosecutor’s opinion, a scale is not evidence of intent to distribute. The greatest bias/lies these police “experts” tell are surrounding packaging. In my most recent case, the defendant had 5 ounces of marijuana in a gallon size zip lock bag. The officer said that the way it was packaged was indicative of delivery because the bag was too large to fit on the scale, it draped over the sides. Of course, if you tape the two ends together it easily fits on the scale. He also testified that the two smaller baggies that were with my client’s smoking paraphernalia were significant to the charge of PWID because together they weighed 28.3 grams, almost exactly an ounce (28.2 grams). Only on cross-examination did this police “expert” admit that the zip lock package weighed 12 grams, ruining his own theory.
The bottom line is that you can be charged with PWID if you have ANY amount of marijuana! Simply passing a joint to another person or just admitting that you did can get you prosecuted for PWID. This is especially true in Oakland County. So, be careful and remember to NEVER talk to the police!
If you have a question about a drug-related charge please contact Dan Ambrose at (248) 624-5500
Ambrose Law Group
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