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 drug charges.
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.”
Felony 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.