The state of Washington regulates illegal drugs under the state’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The Uniform Controlled Substances Act sets out which substances are illegal to possess and distribute in the state. Criminal punishment for drug crimes, including the possession, distribution, or manufacture of illegal drugs, varies greatly by the type and quantity of the drug.
Drug charges are serious matters and should not be faced without experienced legal counsel on your side. If you have been charged with a drug-related crime, you need the compassionate and professional services of Jennifer Horwitz Law. Attorney Jennifer Horwitz routinely defends drug charges in state and federal court and will dedicate herself to advocating for your rights.
Drug Crimes in Washington State
While recreational marijuana is legal in Washington state, it is still illegal to possess more than one ounce. Possession of greater than one ounce but less than forty grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than forty grams of marijuana is a class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Additionally, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess any amount of marijuana. Underage possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of $1,000, and revocation of driving privileges for one year.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
The Controlled Substances Act categorizes illegal substances into five categories that rank drugs based on each drug’s potential for abuse. Drugs listed in Schedule I are the most addictive and have the highest potential for abuse. Drugs listed in Schedule V are still dangerous drugs but are considered less harmful than Schedule I drugs. Common types of drugs listed in each Schedule include:
- Tylenol with codeine
- Sleep medications
- Prescription cough syrups
- Drugs containing lesser amounts of codeine, opium, or other substances
To possess an illegal substance means to have physical possession or otherwise to exercise dominion and control over the illegal substance.
The most basic form of possession is to have illegal substances on your person, either in your hand, pocket, or otherwise concealed. The definition becomes broader when applying the exercise of dominion or control. This extends possession to having illegal substances in a backpack, bag, package, room, drawer, or vehicle — essentially anywhere only you have control.
Specific Laws Relating to Cars
If illegal substances are in an automobile, other than a public bus, every occupant of that automobile is presumed to have knowledge of possession of the substance and can be held criminally liable. This means if a defendant is riding in a car with three friends and one of the friends puts drugs in the glove compartment before the defendant gets into the car, the defendant is still presumed to have known possession of the drugs.
Manufacturing of Controlled Substances
It is illegal to manufacture any of the controlled substances listed in Schedules I-V. The Revised Code of Washington defines manufacture as the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, conversion, or processing of a controlled substance.
The definition of manufacture also includes the packaging or repackaging of a substance or the labeling or re-labeling of its container. Therefore, manufacturing charges may also be brought when a person is accused of bagging or stamping drugs for sale.
Under the Revised Code of Washington, delivery is the actual or constructive transfer of a substance from one person to another. This charge is most commonly associated with the sale of drugs to others. Because the statute defines delivery as actual and constructive, charges for delivery may be brought when the accused actually exchanges drugs with another or otherwise leaves drugs of another to pick up.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
In addition to possessing controlled substances, in Washington, it is also illegal to possess drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia includes all equipment or materials used to produce or manufacture, as well as to use, inject, or inhale a controlled substance.
Examples of materials used to produce controlled substances include tools used to cultivate plants, to test chemical substances, or scales used to measure controlled substances. Examples of materials involved in the use of drugs include hypodermic needles or smoking pipes.
Unauthorized Prescription or Distribution of Controlled Substances
State law also prohibits the unauthorized prescription or distribution of controlled substances. This means it is illegal for a doctor to improperly prescribe a controlled substance, provide substances without a proper prescription, or fail to maintain records of the prescription of controlled substances. It is also illegal for a pharmacy to dispense a controlled substance without a proper prescription. Finally, it is illegal for a pharmaceutical company to produce or manufacture a controlled substance except as authorized by state authorities.
Punishment for Drug Crimes
Generally, violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act are felonies. Depending on the seriousness of the charge, violations of the Controlled Substances Act are classified as class A, B, or C felonies. Class A felonies are the most serious and carry the heaviest punishment while class C felonies are less serious and carry lesser punishment.
- Class A Felony: Punishable by up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- Class B Felony: Punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
- Class C Felony: Punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Sentencing Enhancements for Drug Crimes
Circumstances related to the charges can be cause for longer periods of incarceration as in the following situations: (1) committing a crime in a protected zone, such as near a school (Rev. Code Wash. 69.50435); (2) selling drugs to a minor under the age of 18 (Rev. Code Wash. 69.50.406); or committing a crime while in possession of a firearm or deadly weapon.
Several Washington counties operate special programs called drug court, which allow those accused to receive drug treatment instead of jail time. In some situations, upon successful completion of a drug treatment program, the drug court may dismiss the charges altogether.
Contact an Experienced Drug Crimes Attorney
If you are accused of drug crimes or violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. With over 25 years of experience representing clients in state and federal court, Jennifer Horwitz Law has the skills necessary to protect your interests in the face of prosecution. Contact Jennifer Horwitz today to discuss your situation.
Jennifer Horwitz is located in Seattle, WA, and also serves the areas in and around King County, Issaquah, Sammamish, and Bellevue.