Even though social attitudes toward drug use and addiction are changing, it is still illegal to possess a wide range of controlled substances. In many cases, a conviction can still mean serious consequences. Knowing how to mount an effective drug possession defense to protect your future is essential.
Understanding Drug Possession Charges
Drug possession can mean many different things. Under federal law, drug possession may apply to various circumstances, such as when someone has small amounts of drugs:
On their person
On the property they control
Available for their consumption
These definitions apply to simply possessing drugs and do not take into account whether law enforcement thinks you intend to distribute drugs by selling or giving them to others. But drug possession on its own is still a serious charge. Federal penalties such as a $1,000 minimum fine or up to a year in prison are possible, but the penalties can get much more serious depending on the amount you are in possession of.
So, it's important to know common defenses that are available if you are charged with drug possession. Some of these defenses include:
Unlawful Search and Seizure
The U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment protects you against certain:
Unreasonable searches, or intrusions into places where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy
Seizures of your property
When police violate this right by conducting an illegal search or seizure, the evidence they gather can potentially be excluded from consideration in a trial. However, it's important to understand that search and seizure laws include some exceptions. For instance, police who reasonably suspect that a crime was committed or know that someone was on parole or probation may be able to conduct a frisk or search.
Crime Lab Analysis
Just because something looks like a drug doesn't mean it is. The prosecution must prove the substance they acquired is indeed a controlled substance. It should also be verified by a crime lab analyst, who should testify at trial.
In some instances, police officers may base their accusations on roadside tests even though they're known to be potentially inaccurate. Drug testing can also produce high rates of false positives, or results claiming that people used drugs when they didn't. Your criminal defense attorney can push back on these claims.
Were Drugs Planted?
Police officers may plant false evidence on their person or in their possession. This kind of tampering isn't always easy to prove, but a criminal defense lawyer may be able to call law enforcement actions into question by requesting records of complaints and police reports.
Entrapment means that the government or its agents tried to get someone to commit a crime so that they would be able to prosecute them. For instance, a police officer who gives you drugs and then arrests you for possession of those substances committed entrapment.
To prove that entrapment occurred, you need to show that:
You wouldn't have normally been disposed to commit a crime
The government took actions to persuade or pressure you into committing the crime
Medical and Recreational Marijuana Exceptions
An increasing number of states are legalizing the use of marijuana for various medical purposes or even for recreation. At the federal level, however, marijuana possession remains illegal. If your state has some form of legalized marijuana, you still need to make sure you stay within the law. For instance, it is likely not legal to possess large quantities of marijuana, even for personal use. You'll likely need to prove that you followed the rules, such as a doctor's prescription.
You Need an Attorney to Fight Drug Possession Charges
If you're facing drug possession charges, building a strong defense is vital to protect your freedom and the life you've worked so hard to build. Although each case is unique, there are many different options for arguing against drug possession allegations. Consider speaking to a criminal defense attorney, who can look at your specific case and advise you on the best way to proceed.
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