The other day, I saw a photo online of a criminal defense attorney’s
billboard that said: “JUST BECAUSE YOU DID IT DOESN’T MEAN
YOU’RE GUILTY.” A similar sentiment can be applied to felony
Most lawyers were required to take a Property Law class in law school.
While many lawyers don’t remember much about the class, most lawyers
remember that “possession is 9/10ths of the law.”
drug charges can include possession of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, crack, and
other narcotics, including prescription drugs. Simple possession of less
than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction. However, possession of over
a pound of marijuana or of any amount of THC concentrate or hash is a felony.
Often, if someone is caught in possession of an illegal drug, they are
arrested and charged with a felony. Possession of illegal drugs does not
always result in a criminal conviction. Echoing the billboard advertisement
above, it is true that not everyone caught in possession of narcotics
gets convicted of a felony drug charge.
The first question defense attorneys answer is whether the drugs in question
were the product of a legal or illegal search. If law enforcement conducted
an illegal search of someone’s house, car, or person, the illegally
obtained evidence must be suppressed. This means that the product of an
illegal search or seizure is not allowed at trial. This rule is commonly
known as the exclusionary rule, which basically states that police cannot
benefit from violating a person’s constitutional rights. When a
criminal defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights are violated, the evidence
found by police cannot be used against the defendant.
Another way people win drug cases is through lack of knowledge or awareness
of the existence of illegal drugs. When law enforcement finds a small
amount of methamphetamine in a car, everyone in the vehicle is usually
arrested. But it is difficult for law enforcement to prove these cases
beyond a reasonable doubt. Here’s why: if law enforcement pulls
over a car with four occupants and methamphetamine is found in one of
the occupants’ purses, it is possible that the other three occupants
were not aware of the presence of methamphetamine. Think about it. How
many times have you sat next to someone carrying a purse in a car, train,
bus, or airplane? You did not know what was in that purse. To convict
someone of drug possession, the government must show that that person
knowingly possessed the illegal drug.
The next way that people charged with drug crimes are found not guilty
comes from the lack of proof that the substance is in fact an illegal
narcotic. To convict someone of a drug crime, the government must prove
that the alleged illegal substance found is in fact the drug that they
believe it to be. Often, the government obtains a field test of the drug
and sends it to a crime laboratory, where it is tested. In some rare cases,
drug samples are lost, equipment isn’t calibrated, or the sample
is inadvertently destroyed. In these instances, the defense attorney may
be able to keep the results of the test out, thereby earning an acquittal
for his client with the argument that the government could not prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that the substance obtained was in fact an illegal drug.
Unfortunately, Berry Law Firm’s attorneys have seen a lot of students
and young professionals charged with possession of a controlled substance.
In these cases, the young adult with a bright future ahead of him or her
is now facing a felony charge. The felony not only carries a possible
term of incarceration, but a lifelong handicap when applying for jobs.
Most employers do not hire convicted felons.
Fortunately, there are several opportunities to avoid a felony conviction
for a drug charge. There are drug courts in several counties throughout
the state of Nebraska. If a person completes drug court, the charges are
dismissed. Some counties in Nebraska allow for pretrial diversion, where
the individual charged with the crime can participate in a probation-like
program in order to get the charges dismissed. In other instances, felony
drug charges are pled down to less serious misdemeanor charges.
The consequences for felony drug convictions can be devastating, but it’s
possible for those found with illegal narcotics to be found not guilty.
If you or a family member has been arrested for felony drug possession, please
contact Berry Law Firm.