The first step to prepare for a drug crimes case is to hire an experienced criminal lawyer. Drug crimes are crimes involving drugs. It is important to be aware of the types of drug crimes while preparing for a case. Drug crimes include:
- Drug possession;
- Drug manufacturing;
- Drug use; and/or
- Drug distribution.
Drug possession is the most common drug crime. These charges usually arise when an individual is knowingly in possession of a drug without authorization, such as having a drug without a valid prescription. Penalties may vary depending on the amount of the drug.
Drug manufacturing involves “cooking,” or creating, a synthetic chemical substance and/or extracting a natural drug. Examples include cooking methamphetamine and growing illegal marijuana. Packaging a drug for resale may also be considered manufacturing.
Drug use can be a criminal act in cases where a drug is illegal. Drug use can also be a crime when the drug requires a prescription from a doctor and the defendant did not have one.
Drug distribution includes doing any of the following with illegal substances:
- Trafficking; and/or
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is a federal law governing:
Pursuant to the CSA, drugs are separated into 5 schedules, with Schedule I being the most dangerous and controlled substances. Criminal lawyers who have experience with drug crimes will be aware of all substances covered by the CSA as well as their classifications.
A criminal defense lawyer will be able to assist in defending an individual against drug charges. Penalties for drug crimes can be very severe and have lasting consequences. It is important to note that a drug crime lawyer may be able to have a marijuana charge dismissed and/or cleared in a state that has legalized marijuana.
Drug crimes will vary by state. Every state as well as the federal government have laws regarding the possession, use, manufacture, and sale of certain drugs. Each drug crime has different standards and penalties, especially regarding the severity of the crime. For these reasons, it is essential to have the help of a local criminal attorney who will be familiar with the drug laws of the state where the defendant, or accused, resides.
What Documentation and Questions Should I Gather Before I Meet with My Drug Crimes Lawyer?
In many drug crimes cases, there are not a lot of documents required to bring to a consultation. If an individual had a prescription for the substances they were charged with possessing, it is important to bring that document. Even if the prescription is expired, if the defendant was unaware, that may be used as a defense.
If a defendant has received any documentation and/or correspondence from law enforcement, it is important to bring that to the consultation. This may include letters and/or electronic communications.
If there are any other documents and/or communications an individual has in their possession they believe may be relevant to their case, it is important to bring that information to the consultation. It is better to share with the attorney too much information than too little.
It is also important to bring any other documents and/or information the attorney has requested for the consultation. While the defendant may not understand the need for certain information, the attorney would not request it if it were not relevant.
During the consultation, it is important to tell the attorney every aspect of what occurred leading up to the drug crimes charges. In the next section, defenses will be discussed. There may be a situation where a defendant does not realize something occurred that can be used as a defense.
What Makes a Drug Crime Defense Case Strong? What Makes it Weak?
It is important for a defendant to be familiar with drug crime defenses in the event that something occurred during the events leading up to their drug charges that they did not realize was important to share with their attorney. There are several different defenses available in a drug crimes case. These include:
- Unwitting possession;
- Illegal search and seizure;
- Police abuse of power; and/or
- Legal use of medical marijuana.
Unwitting possession occurs when an individual possesses a drug without the knowledge of doing so. A common example is when a defendant borrows someone else’s vehicle and is unaware drugs are inside. This defense is available in some states, while other states permit the defense with the element that the defendant had no reason to know as a condition. Some states do not permit this as a defense.
Illegal search and seizure is a defense that may be used if law enforcement illegally obtained the evidence in the drug crime case. Pursuant to the United States Constitution, law enforcement is prohibited from searching a home without a warrant and from searching an automobile without probable cause.
Police abuse of power is a similar defense that includes law enforcement using illegal methods to obtain evidence. Common examples include:
- Unauthorized surveillance;
- Planting evidence; and/or
- Using pressure tactics on witnesses and/or suspects.
It is important to know, however, that law enforcement is allowed to lie when promising leniency and/or using undercover agents.
A defense that may be used in a marijuana case is a medical marijuana prescription. This defense will depend on the jurisdiction. For example, if the defendant is in federal court or a state court that does not recognize marijuana, this defense will not be available. Even in states where medical marijuana possession is recognized, there are restrictions, including:
- This is an affirmative defense. Law enforcement arrests individuals first and the court asks questions later;
- There is a limit to how much marijuana patients may possess at one time. Marijuana possession over that limit is not protected;
- This defense applies only to possession. It will not protect a patient charged with distribution; and
- The majority of these states require that patients register with a state medical marijuana program, or hold a doctor’s note to prove that they have a legal right to be in possession.
What are Some Dos and Don’ts for Drug Crime Cases?
Some “do’s” for a drug crimes case include:
- Do: Be honest with your attorney. Somewhere along the way during the process, all of the facts will come out regarding your case. Providing your attorney with all information will allow them to present the best possible defense in your case.
- Do: Re-read this article to see if it jogs your memory of any events from your case. Sometimes, you may not realize a fact is important until you see how it may be used in your case.
- Do: Tell your attorney the whole story. Do not leave anything out. Everything you say is privileged and your attorney cannot share it. Something may be important you do not realize is useful.
Some “don’ts” for a drug crimes case include:
- Don’t: Lie to your attorney about any aspect of your case. The truth will come out eventually, and the consequences will be even worse.
- Don’t: Do something you think will help your case, such as obtaining a fake prescription for the substance. Again, the truth will come out and the consequences will be more severe.
- Don’t: Behave and/or dress disrespectfully in court. The old saying, “if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck” applies here. If you act like a criminal and dress like a criminal, you are more likely to be perceived as a criminal.
When Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer for a Drug Case?
A criminal lawyer is always needed in a drug case. Drug convictions may result in serious consequences, including:
- Probation or parole;
- Loss of child custody; and/or
- Significant fines.
Some drug charges are classified as felony charges, which may be difficult and/or impossible to expunge from an individual’s record.
An experienced drug attorney will fight to protect your rights, and help present the best possible legal defenses. They can represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary. In some cases, an attorney may be able to negotiate a reduction in the charges against you.