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Drug manufacturing and distribution crimes receive plenty of attention and blame in the media and news. People can also face harsh penalties for less serious crimes. Even though social attitudes toward drug use are changing, it remains illegal to possess a vast range of controlled substances. Those charged with these offenses may want to learn how to mount effective drug possession defenses to protect their futures.
Drug possession can mean many different things. Under federal law, this criminal offense may apply to various circumstances, such as when someone has small amounts of drugs:
While these definitions only apply to individuals who don't intend to distribute drugs by selling or giving them to others, they're still serious misdemeanors. Federal penalties such as a $1,000 minimum fine or up to a year in prison are possible, and those who have criminal records with similar prior offenses might face felony consequences.
The U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment protects people against certain:
When police violate this right by conducting an illegal search or seizure, the evidence they gather can potentially be excluded from consideration in trials. It's important to understand, however, 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.
Police may base their accusations on roadside tests even though they're known to be potentially inaccurate. Scientists point out that police need to meet high standards to ensure the accuracy of chemical testing results. Drug testing can also produce high rates of false positives, or results claiming that people used drugs when they didn't.
Numerous people have been detained or convicted based on bad tests that misidentified substances like drywall dust as cocaine, and crime lab technicians in states like Massachusetts and New Jersey have been accused of falsifying thousands of test results that led to convictions. Defendants need to push back by demanding that the authorities prove that an alleged substance was actually an illegal drug.
Police officials seeking to convict someone on drug charges may plant false evidence on their person or in their possession. For instance, in 2012, a Georgia official conspired with a person convicted of drug dealing to plant methamphetamine in a woman's car and have another officer find it during a subsequent traffic stop. This kind of tampering isn't always easy to prove, but attorneys 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, an officer who gives someone drugs and then arrests them for possession of those substances committed entrapment.
To prove that entrapment occurred, defendants need to show that:
Increasing numbers of states have legalized the use of marijuana for various medical purposes. At the federal level, however, it remains illegal. States such as California, Washington D.C. and others have implemented rules that let municipalities decide what kind of possession and behaviors are legal. Those who use marijuana under state laws may be eligible for exceptions, but they'll likely need to prove that they followed the rules by having doctor's recommendations or ID cards.
Drug possession defense is vital for those who don't want to give up the lives they've worked so hard to build. Although each case is unique, there are many different options for arguing against drug possession allegations.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified drug crime lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local drug crime attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.