Getting arrested for drug possession is frightening, as the penalties can be severe. In Pennsylvania, first-time drug offenders can see up to a year behind bars.
Even if you face conviction, though, it does not mean imprisonment is inevitable.
What factors make first-time offenders less likely to go to jail?
Whether law enforcement puts you in a cell depends partially on where the offense occurs. Different states have differing standards. In Indiana, for instance, getting caught with drugs may result in up to 180 days behind bars. Meanwhile, if a judge finds you guilty in California, you cannot get more than 15 days in jail.
The type of drug you have in your possession also has an impact. Heroin and methamphetamines, for example, come with stiffer sentences than marijuana.
How much you are carrying is another factor that determines what will happen. You will likely maintain your freedom if you are only caught possessing residue. Carrying enough to argue intent to distribute usually results in harsher penalties.
Other factors, such as whether you have a preexisting record, increase your chance of jail.
What happens to first-time offenders who get probation?
While better than jail, probation comes with serious restrictions. You must not have any weapons during your probationary period. Also, you cannot break any laws and need to complete at least three random drug tests. Failure to adhere to these requirements may result in further legal jeopardy. There might be other restrictions put in place by your particular jurisdiction.
Getting caught with narcotics does not always lead to incarceration. Stay aware of the many factors that can impact your sentence.