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Possession with Intent to Distribute, Distribution, or Manufacturing a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS)

Maryland drug distribution, possession with intent to distribute, and manufacturing charges are particularly serious.  Prison sentences can be lengthy, and significant mandatory minimums are in place for more serious offenses. All of these crimes are felonies.

There are likely to be details about your case that I can exploit to keep you out of jail or get your case dismissed.  I have kept hundreds of people out of jail, and I have beaten these charges for other people. Call me at (301) 556‑8709 so that I can start protecting your future.

Crimes involving production and distribution of illegal drugs, such as Possession With Intent to Distribute (PWID), Distribution, and Manufacturing are all felonies, and they all have the same penalty structure. If you are charged with one of these crimes, you may see them stated as Possession with Intent to Distribute CDS or Distribution of CDS under CR 5-602, or Manufacturing CDS under CR 5-603. CDS is an acronym for Controlled Dangerous Substances, a term used to describe illegal drugs in Maryland criminal law. The charge will also usually state exactly which controlled dangerous substance was involved, which is important for sentencing purposes.


The allowed punishments depend primarily on the category of drugs and your previous offenses. Schedule I or II narcotics and certain hallucinogenic substances bring harsher punishments for these crimes, but all the other drugs have the same allowable punishments. The legislature added an enhanced penalty in 2017 of up to 10 additional years for fentanyl or heroin containing fentanyl, on top of the already higher penalties for schedule I or II narcotics, which both fentanyl and heroin fall under.

Schedule I or II Narcotics include opium and coca leaves along with their derivatives and chemical analogs. Examples are drugs like heroin, oxycodone or OxyContin, cocaine, and crack.

Certain hallucinogenic substances include, PCP, chemical analogs of PCP, and LSD in any amount. It also includes MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, but only in quantities of 750 grams or more.

Marijuana, one of the most common illegal drugs, does not fall into either of the above categories, and the allowed punishments are the same as they are for any illegal drug not referred to above. Possession of small amounts has been decriminalized but very little has changed for those accused of distribution or possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

Controlled Dangerous Substances Not Listed Below (Marijuana, etc.)

  • Up to 5 years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine

Schedule I or II Narcotics (Heroin, OxyContin, Cocaine, Crack, Fentanyl, etc.), or Certain Hallucinogens (LSD, PCP, more than 750g of Ecstasy)

  • 1st Offense: up to 20 years and a $15,000 fine
  • 2nd Offense: up to 20 years and $15,000
  • 3rd Offense: up to 25 years and $25,000
  • 4th Offense or more: up to 40 years and $25,000

Maryland has a number of rules that I can use to make multiple offenses count as one offense, or not count at all for purposes of subsequent offender sentencing.

Fentanyl is particularly powerful synthetic opioid, and is much more likely to be associated with overdose deaths than other illegal drugs. As such, it carries an additional penalty in Maryland for possession with intent to distribute (PWID) or distribution.

Additional penalties for Fentanyl or Heroin containing Fentanyl

  • up to 10 additional years, consecutive and not concurrent with any other penalties (Fentanyl and Heroin are both Schedule I or II Narcotics)

Possession With Intent to Distribute (PWID) a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS)

Possession with intent to distribute CDS is one of the most common drug distribution charges. It does not require proof of actual distribution, and intent can be inferred from the quantity or surrounding circumstances. It may be abbreviated in your charging document as CR 5-602 CDS POSS W/INT TO DIST.

Intent to distribute can be inferred many ways. It can be inferred from the amount, from the packaging, from other objects found nearby, or other circumstances. These inferences can be rebutted, and they are sometimes used to overcharge the defendant even when the basis for the inference of intent to distribute is weak and would not survive a trial.

Intent to distribute CDS is often inferred from the amount of controlled dangerous substance found in your possession. There are many arguments that I can make to avoid an inference that you intended to distribute the drugs.

Large Quantities of Drugs

Heavy users can go through a lot of drugs quickly, and it is often more economical for a heavy user to buy a lot of CDS at once, as it drives the per unit cost down. The economics of illegal drugs are not all that different from those in your local supermarket. You will tend to receive a lower price per unit when you buy in bulk, because the seller has lower per unit packaging prices, distribution costs, and transaction costs.

Heavy drug use can represent a significant financial burden on a user, which can eat up a large percentage of their income. Thus, finding the most product at the lowest prices becomes of paramount importance, leading the user to drive a long way and buy large quantities to get the best deal. As your attorney, I can help you avoid an inference that you intended to distribute the drugs in your possession.

Packaging Material

Possession with intent to distribute is sometimes inferred from the way the CDS is packaged, or because packaging material is found nearby. Much of the time this inference is not correct. After all, many people buy plastic bags for various reasons, yet very few of those are used for distributing anything, drugs or otherwise. Similarly, just because baggies are found in the presence of drugs, does not mean that the person intended to repackage the drugs at all, or that they intended to repackage them for resale.

An inference is also sometimes drawn from the way that the illegal drugs are already packaged. If you are found with drugs in multiple small baggies rather than one large bag, an officer might charge you with intent to sell, even if the inference is not well-supported.

Anyone that wants to buy a lot of something will be forced to buy that quantity in whatever packaging that the person is selling it offers. For instance, if you wanted to buy four frozen meals during a trip to the supermarket that you planned to eat, you would most likely end up with four individual cardboard boxes of frozen food, because that is the way that frozen meals are sold at your supermarket, even if you might prefer the larger package. Similarly, if you wanted to buy four grams of an unlawful substance for personal use, and the seller had it prepackaged in packs of one gram, you would likely end up with four packs of one gram rather than one pack of four grams, because the person that sold the drug to you may not have had a package of four grams readily available.

Scales and Other Measuring Equipment

The presence of a scale or other measuring device is a common trigger for a charge of possession with intent to distribute CDS. This can be an unfair inference, as scales are used for a variety of very common lawful activities that have nothing to do with CDS or illegal drugs. Examples of innocuous uses for scales are baking, cooking, and weighing mail. People who participate in these ordinary, lawful activities may also have drugs for their personal use.

Also, a buyer of an illegal drug may wish to bring their own scale in order to have a reliable way to tell how much of the substance that they are buying. You trust your local supermarket to offer trustworthy labeling of quantities on packaging and reliable hanging scales for produce, but a drug dealer cannot be expected to reliably offer such amenities. As such, a customer may want to bring their own trustworthy measuring device when buying CDS for personal use.

You are not alone. Call me at (301) 556‑8709 now. I have helped others charged with possession with intent to distribute and other drug distribution crimes, and I can help you too.

Asset Seizure and Forfeiture

Maryland possession with intent to distribute and CDS distribution cases sometimes include civil asset forfeiture, where the police seize cash or other assets of the accused defendant under the theory that they are used for or involved with illegal drug distribution. Recent changes in the law have made these cases much more fair to the accused. Cash in the amount of $300 or less cannot be seized for forfeiture. The burden of proof has been moved to the State from the defendant, and the standard of proof has been raised. The State must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the owner committed a drug dealing offense, that the person acquired the property during the violation or within a reasonable amount of time after the violation, and that there was no other likely source for the property. These proceedings are separate from criminal charges. I can help you get your cash and other assets back in court.

Previous Mandatory Minimums for PWID and CDS Distribution Overturned

In 2016 the law was amended to remove many, but not all, of the mandatory minimums for drug dealing offenses, to include drug distribution and possession with intent to distribute (PWID) in Maryland. When the law changed, the legislature also authorized hearings to allow sentence reduction for people previously sentenced under a mandatory minimum which has been legislatively overturned, even if the sentence is longer than the mandatory minimum. I can help you get a hearing and get your sentence lowered if you were previously sentenced under a mandatory minimum that no longer exists for drug distribution or possession with intent to distribute.

Volume Dealer

While intent to distribute is often imputed at much lower levels, the possession of enormous quantities of a controlled dangerous substance renders you guilty of the crime of being a “Volume Dealer”, without the need for the State to prove an intent to distribute. The possession of such a large quantity becomes a much more serious crime in and of itself. If you are accused of being a “Volume Dealer” you face a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years that cannot be suspended without parole eligibility during the mandatory minimum, and a fine of up to $100,000 if you are convicted. The amount of drugs possessed must be truly large: 50 pounds of marijuana, 448 grams of any mixture containing cocaine, crack, phencyclidine or methamphetamine, 16 ounces of liquid phencyclidine, 28 grams of morphine or opium, 1000 doses of LSD, 5 grams of fentanyl, or 28 grams of any mixture containing fentanyl. The State is allowed to aggregate quantities over a 90-day period to reach these levels, so if you are caught with 25 pounds of marijuana on one day, and another 25 pounds of marijuana a month later, the amounts can be added together to reach 50 pounds.

Drug Kingpin

The Maryland crime of being a “Drug Kingpin” is essentially the conspiracy form of a Volume Dealer charge. A drug kingpin under Maryland law is an organizer, supervisor, financier, or manager who conspires to manufacture, distribute, dispense, import, or transport illegal drugs (CDS) an amount large enough to meet the Volume Dealer levels listed above. There is no 90 day aggregation period limit as there is with the offense of being a volume dealer. Being convicted of being a Drug Kingpin carries a mandatory minimum of 20 years imprisonment during which you are not eligible for parole, and a maximum sentence of 40 years and a $1,000,000 fine.

Importer of Controlled Dangerous Substances

Maryland has a law against importing CDS, that is separate from the volume dealer statute above, and different from it. Some threshold amounts of drugs are lower than those for a volume dealer, but some are higher. Maryland prohibits the unauthorized importation into the State of at least: 45 kilograms of marijuana, 28 grams of cocaine, phencyclidine, methamphetamine, or any mixture containing cocaine, 112 grams of any mixture containing phencyclidine, 1000 doses of methaqualone or LSD, or 4 grams of fentanyl. There is no mandatory minimum, but it is a felony and the maximum is up to 25 years and a fine of up to $50000. Importing 5 kilograms of marijuana but less than 45 kilograms also has a penalty of 10 years and $10000.