Federal laws regarding controlled substances have some fine legal points, namely, that all elements must be present to meet the requirements of certain charges.
For instance, being charged with possession of a controlled substance simply means that it was found on your person, or in your home or auto or that you allegedly had control over the illegal substance.
To meet the elements of the more serious charge of intent to distribute controlled substances, suspects must either have more than they could personally use or have other indicators that they were selling the drugs. Scales, baggies, text messages about scoring all could indicate an intent to distribute.
However, in order for police to charge somebody with possession with the intent to distribute illegal drugs, the person has to both have the drugs and also have an intent to sell them to others. Only having one of the two elements is insufficient for this charge to stick.
While these are federal laws, states have closely tailored their drug statutes to mirror the federal laws. Any time you are busted on a distribution charge, you should take it very seriously. This is something that can negatively impact every single area of your life for the foreseeable future should you be convicted.
That's why, whether you are brought in on state or federal charges, it is vital to start building your defense from the moment the cuffs hit your wrists. Remember to preserve your right against self incrimination, and to only confide in your criminal defense attorney about the particulars of your case.
Source: FindLaw, "Possession with the Intent to Distribute," accessed June 24, 2016