In the state of Pennsylvania, first-time offenders with a simple possession charge may apply for Diversion. Diversion allows first-time offenders to maintain a clean criminal record by pleading guilty. They must then complete a substance abuse program. Additionally, they cannot commit any more criminal acts while in the program. If they do, the court suspends the program.
The average period for Diversion is 18 months. Once an individual completes the program, the court clears their criminal record. This is both a forgiveness to first-timers and a means to rehabilitate individuals.
Penalties for drug charges will vary based upon the circumstances of the arrest. First, it depends on which law enforcement and jurisdiction are handling the drug charges. A federal drug charge is more severe than a local drug charge.
Additionally, different drugs are in different classes. These classes will affect the punishment. The law scales the drugs from 1 to 5, with 5 being the least severe and less likely for abuse. The amount of the drug will also affect the punishment, as the buyer will face a shorter time than the seller.
The final aspect that changes the penalty is personal use. Compared to other drug charges, the penalty for possession is not as severe. Law enforcement often wants the manufacturers and sellers off the streets. Likewise, the buyers are often given shorter sentences, especially if they are willing to give up the sellers and testify.