Drug Offenses in Providence: Penalties and Defense Strategies

January 31, 2024 – Thomas G. Briody

Rhode Island law addresses drug offenses in two primary categories: possession of drugs and possession with intent to sell or actual sale, often referred to as “hand-to-hand delivery.” The latter is treated with greater severity in the criminal justice system. A common approach by law enforcement is to arrest individuals possessing substantial quantities of drugs, inferring an intent to sell.

Recent amendments to Rhode Island’s drug laws have been favorable for those facing simple possession charges. These changes have reclassified some offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, a significant benefit particularly for individuals struggling with substance abuse rather than being involved in large-scale drug trafficking.

The most serious drug-related offenses in Rhode Island include possession with intent to deliver or manufacture, and delivery itself. These offenses are prosecutable in both state and federal courts. Federal charges can carry mandatory minimum sentences, ranging from five to ten years, highlighting their severity. Under Rhode Island law, state charges for possession of narcotics or controlled substances with the intent to distribute can lead to maximum penalties of up to 30 years in prison. However, this duration is not a typical sentence for most offenders.

When it comes to defending against drug charges, various strategies can be employed. A common tactic is to challenge the identification of the substance, requiring the State of Rhode Island to confirm its illegal nature. Other defenses hinge on the specifics of the case. For instance, if an informant is involved, it might be possible to reveal their identity and the benefits they are receiving for their cooperation with authorities. However, such defenses require detailed and case-specific analysis.

It is crucial for anyone facing drug charges to communicate openly and honestly with a defense attorney. An experienced attorney can assess the unique aspects of the case and determine the most effective defense strategy, taking into account the specific circumstances and the evidence presented by the prosecution.

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