When it comes to drug offenses in Indiana, possession is typically the least serious potential charge someone can face, while manufacturing and trafficking charges are far more serious. Possession only means that you got caught with a drug that is either illegal or is a prescription drug for which you do not currently hold a prescription.
However, not all possession charges are simple, minor allegations. In certain circumstances, law enforcement officers and prosecutors can decide to charge someone with possession with intent to distribute. Such charges can carry significant penalties even if you’ve never sold any illegal drugs.
In other words, they don’t necessarily have direct evidence of trafficking or sales of a prohibited substance, but they have reason to believe you intended to sell the drugs that they found in your possession to charge you with this more serious offense. The differences between these two crimes are quite substantial.
Why police bring possession with intent charges
Police officers generally want to stem the supply of illegal substances available on the unregulated market. Arresting individual users does very little to deter the criminal activity associated with the supply and sale of prohibited drugs.
By cracking down on individuals whom they suspect of trafficking or selling prohibited drugs, officers can cut off supply and even potentially leverage the criminal charges against an individual by convincing them that it will be in their best interest to take a plea bargain or become a state informant.
Finally, possession with intent carries substantially more significant penalties when compared with standard possession charges and can potentially preclude someone from going through the drug court system.
Factors that may influence officials to charge you with intent to distribute
There are a variety of reasons why someone winds up charged with intent to distribute instead of simple possession. Sometimes, it is because police suspect but cannot prove a connection to the drug trafficking going on in the area. Having a large amount of a substance (an ounce or more) can also lead to more serious charges, as officers may not believe that amount was for personal use.
Other times, officers find things during a search or the process of an arrest that makes it easier for them to claim an individual engaged or planned to engage in trafficking. Baggies or containers like straws that can serve as containers for individual purchases, a scale, and even text messages referencing the sale or use of drugs could also serve as evidence that helps officers or prosecutors justify possession with intent to distribute charges.
Any drug offense has the potential to impact your professional and personal life, but intent to distribute charges can have a lasting effect on everything from your career to the housing available to you.