Possession of prohibited or controlled substances is probably the most common drug offense. However, some people who believe that their only crime was having an illegal substance might find out, much to their shock and dismay, that law enforcement in Iowa suspects them of selling or distributing those drugs.

If police officers or federal agents suspect you of selling or trafficking drugs but don’t catch you in the act, you could wind up charged with possession with intent to deliver. Like other possession offenses, the penalties and severity of the charge itself relate to the total weight of the drugs found in your possession.

There can be additional penalties for those suspected of being a trafficker. Learning about how police officers and prosecutors differentiate between possession and possession with intent can help you develop a defense strategy when facing drug charges.

Possession with intent can be the result of controlled purchasing or stakeouts

In some cases, law enforcement officers trying to build a case against someone they believe sells drugs will send in undercover operatives or confidential informants to make controlled purchases under the direct observation of federal agents or law enforcement officers. Information about these purchases will then inform the charges someone faces after police arrest them.

Other times, officers might park not far from a suspect’s home or even hole up in a vacant property nearby and spend days or even weeks monitoring the traffic of visitors in and out of their house. Heavy traffic, especially repeat visits from people who are known drug users, can help build a case against someone even if officers never witness any sale take place.

Other items in your possession can also strengthen the case against you

Items you have around the house could implicate you for intent. Small digital scales that weigh in increments less than a gram can help the state build a case against you. The same is true for what seems to be individual packaging for drugs, such as baggies, plastic containers or even single-use plastic straws, which are popular for the distribution of powdered substances.

Knowing what evidence the state has against you will make a big impact on how you try to defend yourself. Getting help with the review of your arrest and the evidence the state intends to present in your case well before you go to court can give you a chance to provide an alternate explanation and prepare to defend yourself against those charges.