The difference between possessing controlled substances and possessing them with intent to distribute could be significant when it comes to your possible penalties for a conviction. The prosecutor of your case has the burden of proof to show that you intended to distribute drugs that you possessed.
There are several elements to proving this charge.
1. The substance
There must be evidence that the drugs you possessed were indeed illegal substances. The prosecutor must show what class of substance they are, as well as how much law enforcement discovered in your possession.
The prosecutor has to convince the judge or jury that you intended to distribute the substance. Because you did not distribute the drugs, the proof involves inference. This is generally based on how much you had in your possession.
The Massachusetts District Court’s Jury Instructions explain that inference is the jury members’ deduction based on the evidence that they accept as believable. The conclusion or deduction does not have to be necessary, but it does have to be reasonable based on the evidence.
How does a prosecutor infer that you intended to do something? According to Massachusetts jury instructions, intent involves a conscious decision to act with a certain outcome in mind. There must be an inference that you are voluntarily and deliberately planning to take the action.
So, if law enforcement found a large amount of a controlled substance on your person or in your vehicle, the jury may deduce by that evidence that you intended to give or sell some of it to someone else. This could be enough to “prove” your intent beyond a reasonable doubt if you are not able to provide a defense. Strategies for rebutting intent to distribute could include showing that the police made a mistake or that you were not aware of the amount of drugs you had on your person.