The top misconception is “They found it on me, do I even have a defense?” I hear that a lot when clients schedule their appointment to come and meet with me. They sit down and they ask why they should even hire an attorney. I try to explain the importance of hiring an attorney, and the process for drug charges.
Authorities will do what they call a reactive chemical test initially, using small samples in a simple test. That’ll give them presumptive results, and unless the defense attorney or defendant requests that the substance be sent down to the lab for more conclusive testing, they will stop right there. So a lot of times I’ve seen it come back where the client was charged of possessing methamphetamine and when tested for what it is, it’s not even close. Sometimes the results come back as something that’s not even illegal to possess, which really helps out in these cases.
I had a guy just a few weeks ago; they found a bag in his car and it had some white residue. He said it was aspirin, that he’d taken one of those big bulk containers of aspirin and dumped a bunch of them. They’d been in his car in a Ziploc bag because he had taken them on a daily basis or whenever he needed and the bag was empty and it was just lying in his car. He got arrested and the car was searched.
They thought that the bag was some sort of illegal controlled substance and he said there’s nothing in there except aspirin. They had it tested and sure enough it came back inconclusive but he had been charged with a felony for possession of cocaine. So the biggest misconception that I see is “What can an attorney really do for me? They caught me red handed with the controlled substance.”
What Are Some Things that Would Help Someone’s Drug Case?
If someone is a user and they’re in possession of the controlled substance for their own personal use, the biggest thing that could help them is to go and get some counseling, get the treatment and come back with a plan to present to the court or the sentencing judge on how they’re going to kick the habit. They have to show that they’ve taken steps to address the issue, because one of the biggest things here is how you are going to get the person over this so they don’t have these charges in the future.
The second thing would be to exercise their right to an attorney and their right to remain silent. A lot of times detectives will investigate and they might seize the controlled substance, write an investigation and then maybe a few days later go back to the person because they didn’t arrest them the first time. In most of these cases, the person is just incriminating themselves when the detectives return to ask questions. Anytime that they’ve been contacted by law enforcement, the second best thing they can do is contact an attorney and get some advice on where to go from there.
Are Police Officers Allowed to Lie to People? What are our legal obligations to officers?
One of the defenses in my toolbox that I help people with in drug cases is looking at constitutional issues. It’s the search and seizure just before the 4th amendment. People should be secure in their homes, their person, and their property. There has to be probable cause or a warrant to search through those things. I advise them never to consent to any kind of search. A lot of people do that thinking that, “Well they are going to find it anyways, I am just going to consent and get it over with” but I wouldn’t advise anyone to consent.
The right to remain silent is also important. Sometimes during the investigation the police officer won’t read the Miranda rights to the client and the client will make statements that are incriminating. Sometimes the officers will lie. They’ll say, “Your friend over there already told us this this and this and that the stuff was yours. Why don’t you just admit that it was yours?” just to get a confession. If they get a confession, it’s easier for them.
This is one of the things I am looking for during a case. If there’s duress or coercion or trickery and my client wasn’t read his Miranda rights when he was in custody then I am going to ask that those statements be thrown out and any evidence that they have as result of those statements be thrown out and not used against them. Police will do whatever they can to get a confession and find out where the drugs are. They will use every tactic that they have available to them to get the information they need to get a prosecution or a conviction.
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