When Louisiana residents hear the term ‘possession with intent to distribute, they may think, how does one know what one’s intent was-how is it possible to prove intent in order to charge someone with this crime? The answer is not so clear cut-federal law requires that three elements be proven in order to face these charges: possession, intent to distribute and possession with intent to distribute. Under federal law, the crime has not been committed until all three prongs are satisfied.
Most states prohibit the possession of controlled substances. This means more than simply having them on one’s person or in one’s bag-it means the drugs are in the control of the person facing the charges. The person must know that the drugs are present or should have known that they were present. With regard to intent, the prosecution must prove what the accused was planning on doing with the drugs. Since it is not possible to get inside their head and prove it, the surrounding circumstances are taken into account to prove intent. Courts generally find this when the amount in possession is too much for personal use. In addition to this, packaging material or large amounts of money are also considered evidence of intent to distribute.
Possession with intent to distribute cannot be charged unless both possession and intent to distribute, as described above, have taken place at the same time. For example, if someone has a small amount of controlled substance, they can only be charged with possession, not with intent to distribute. Similarly, if someone has the intent to distribute a controlled substance but doesn’t have the drugs in their possession yet, they can only be charged for one and not the other.
Federal laws are often more severe than state ones, and since this type of drug charge is governed by federal sentencing guidelines, it is important to take charges seriously. As the prosecution must prove all three elements, it may be possible for an aggressive defense attorney to attack even one prong of the case to defend the accused’s rights.