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What to Know About Juvenile Drug Possession

If you are an adult and you’ve been charged with a drug possession crime, your case would go through the regular court system. This process works differently for minors, who typically go through the juvenile court system instead.

Any person under 18 who knowingly possess an illegal or controlled substance without a legal justification may be charged with juvenile drug possession. “Controlled substances” refer not only to drugs like marijuana or meth, but also certain prescription drugs if the juvenile does not have a prescription for those medications.

“Knowledge” and “control” are the two main elements of this crime. The juvenile must knowingly have the drug in his or her possession to be guilty of possessing it. The drug does not have to be physically on the person of the juvenile at the time of the search — a prosecutor simply needs to show the defendant had control over the area where the drugs were discovered. For example, the discovery of drugs in a minor’s school locker is enough to lead to a possession charge.

Penalties for juvenile drug possession

Because juveniles do not go through the same legal process for drug crimes as adult, the penalties for possession are also different. Examples of common penalties include:

  • Drug counseling: Juvenile courts tend to prioritize rehabilitation over punishment, and most judges will require young people to engage in some form of drug counseling.
  • Probation: Juveniles may be placed on probation for drug possession. Under probation, they must comply with specific terms, such as regular school attendance, maintaining a job (if old enough), community service and/or participation in counseling.
  • Diversion: Like probation, diversion requires juveniles to abide by certain conditions. However, it allows them to do so without having to go to court. This is a popular option for first-time offenders.
  • Detention: In rare cases, minors can be ordered into detention for drug crimes, whether it is in the form of home confinement or placement in a detention facility.

To learn more about juvenile drug crimes and the penalties you or your child may face, meet with knowledgeable Reading criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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