Drug possession is one of the most common criminal offenses in California and the rest of the United States. Not only does a conviction carry harsh criminal penalties, such as jail/prison time and costly fines, but it can also result in a permanent criminal record, which can make obtaining a job, applying for college, or living a normal life extremely difficult.
One of the most important steps to take after being arrested for drug possession is hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer can thoroughly review your case, determine the strongest legal defenses to the charges you face, and help you get the best possible outcome in court.
The following are the most common legal defenses to drug possession charges:
- Unlawful search and seizure – The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees every person the fundamental right to privacy and outlaws unreasonable searches and seizures. Therefore, law enforcement officials must have probable cause, a valid warrant, consent, or notice a drug or drug-related paraphernalia in plain view to perform a lawful search. If an officer conducts a search without establishing one of the reasons above, then you may have a valid defense of illegal search and seizure. This means any evidence that was obtained during the search is considered inadmissible in court and the charges will most likely be dismissed.
- Unwitting possession – Just because you were found with drugs on your person isn’t enough to be convicted of possession. The prosecution must prove that you were intentionally in possession of a controlled substance at the time of your arrest. For example, you are driving a friend’s car you borrowed, you then get pulled over, and an officer finds drugs in the vehicle. Because you are unaware of the drugs in the vehicle, you cannot be charged with possession due to lack of intent.
- Lack of possession – You can only be convicted of drug possession if you have actual, shared, or constructive possession of the substance. In other words, the drugs in question must belong to you. For instance, if the police search your home you share with three other people and discover drugs on the property, the prosecution must prove that the drugs belong to you and not your roommates.
- You were not in the possession of drugs – The substance found on you must be a drug to charge you with possession. For example, if an officer seizes a bag of a white powdered substance but the substance is actually flour and not cocaine after a lab analysis, you cannot be convicted of drug possession because the substance in question is not a drug.
- The drugs are lost or missing – A lawyer may request the prosecutors to physically produce the actual drugs involved in the offense. However, if the drug cannot be produced, the defense can argue that there is no proof that the substance ever existed. Drugs may be transferred or exchanged many times prior to trial, so there is a chance that they can be lost or missing.
If you have been charged with a drug crime in Santa Rosa, CA, call the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. at (707) 418-5352 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Our firm has successfully represented thousands of people facing a variety of criminal charges.