A conviction for drug possession can result in harsh penalties, such as a lengthy jail/prison term, fines, and a permanent criminal record. The severity of the punishment depends on the type of drug, the amount involved, and your previous criminal history.
If you have been arrested for drug possession, one of the most important steps to take is to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you in court and protect your rights. Your attorney can assess your case, identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument, and build a strong defense strategy to either get your case dismissed altogether or your charges/penalties reduced.
Here are the most common legal defenses for drug possession charges:
- You do not own the drugs – Commonly known as the “unwitting possession” defense, you may claim you had no idea the drugs were in your possession. For instance, you borrowed your friend’s car to run errands but then the police pull you over and discover drugs in the vehicle. Since you were unaware the drugs were in the car, you cannot be held liable for possessing drugs. Another common defense is “lack of possession,” which applies to situations where you get pulled over with several other people or your roommate allows the police to search your home without your presence. If the prosecution cannot prove that the drugs are actually yours, you cannot be convicted of the crime.
- Unlawful search and seizure – In order for law enforcement to search your vehicle or your home, they must obtain either your consent, probable cause, or a warrant to do so. If they continue to perform a search without establishing one of these elements, it is a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure. Any evidence collected from an illegal search can be thrown out of court by filing a motion to suppress. Without the drugs in question, the prosecution doesn’t have a case.
- Entrapment – The police set up sting operations to catch criminals in the act in order to make a valid arrest. However, entrapment occurs when an officer or informant pressures a person to commit a crime he/she otherwise may not have done. For example, a disguised officer forces you to purchase drugs from him/her, it is considered entrapment.
- The drugs aren’t actually what they appear to be – Once the police seize the drugs, they often send the evidence to the crime lab for analysis. Upon obtaining the results, the crime lab analyst must show their findings in court. If the test results determine the substance in question are not actually illegal drugs, then the case will be dismissed.
Our Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyers at Appel & Morse understand what it takes to get the best possible results. For more information, contact us and schedule a free criminal consultation today.