Those who are familiar with the criminal justice system know that it can be difficult to understand the criminal charges one is facing or how the justice system works. At times, it might seem as if the whole system is rigged against the person accused of committing the crime. However, a successful criminal defense can often hinge on having a working knowledge of what one is being charged with and a sympathetic experienced attorney by one’s side.

Drug charges vary, depending on the type and weight of drug involved. Another charge that is often seen with possession is possession with the intent to distribute. West Virginia residents may not know that this is also a serious federal offense and can be penalized with both jail time and monetary fines.

To understand the charges, it is important to break it into its two elements. These both must be proven simultaneously by the prosecution. Possession refers to knowing that drugs are present, even if they are not one’s body or in one’s bag at the time—it is enough that they are in the accused’s control. While it is possible to defend oneself by denying knowledge of the drugs, it can be argued that the accused should have known about them or should have known the drugs in question were controlled substances.

The second element is intent to distribute. This has to be proven by looking at the surrounding circumstances, as it is not possible to show what is in one’s mind. Generally, if the amount in question is too large for personal use, it can be argued it was meant for distribution. Packaging material and large amounts of money can also show an intent to distribute.

While it is crucial to prove the coincidence of possession and intent, prosecutions can argue that a conspiracy exists or to level an attempt charged. Given the serious nature of the crime and penalties attached, it is beneficial to have a strong and aggressive criminal defense to protect one’s rights.