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Possession of Drugs Charges: Why You Need an Experienced Narcotics Crimes Lawyer

By Spodek Law Group | October 20, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 21, 2023)

Last Updated on: 21st October 2023, 08:47 am

Possession of Drugs Charges: Why You Need an Experienced Narcotics Crimes Lawyer

Getting charged with drug possession can be an incredibly stressful and frightening experience. The penalties for drug crimes are severe, and a conviction can negatively impact your life for years to come. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side if you are facing drug possession charges.

In this article, I want to walk you through some of the most effective strategies for defending against drug possession charges. My goal is to provide you with helpful information so you understand your options and legal rights. Having this knowledge can make navigating the criminal justice system much less intimidating.

Challenging the Search and Seizure

One of the most common and effective ways to get drug charges dismissed is to challenge the legality of the search and seizure. The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures.

If the police violated your 4th Amendment rights when they searched you or your property and found drugs, any evidence collected during that search could be suppressed. This means the prosecution wouldn’t be allowed to use that evidence against you in court.

Some common 4th Amendment violations in drug cases include:

  • The police conducted a search without probable cause or a warrant
  • You didn’t voluntarily consent to the search
  • The search went beyond the scope of the warrant
  • You were detained longer than reasonably necessary for a traffic stop

An experienced drug crimes lawyer will thoroughly investigate the circumstances of your arrest and build the strongest possible argument to get the evidence suppressed. If the motion is successful, the prosecution’s case will crumble and the charges will likely be dismissed.

Fighting Constructive vs Actual Possession

To convict you of drug possession, the prosecution has to prove you actually or constructively possessed the drugs. Actual possession means the drugs were found on your person or in your belongings. Constructive possession is when the drugs were in a location you controlled access to, like your house or car.

Many drug possession cases rely on arguments about constructive possession. If other people had access to the area where the drugs were found, your attorney can argue the prosecution can’t prove the drugs belonged to you.

Some examples of fighting constructive possession:

  • Drugs found in a jointly occupied home or apartment
  • Drugs found in a borrowed car or bag
  • Drugs found in a public space like a park

By casting doubt on whether you actually possessed the drugs, your lawyer may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

Questioning the Drug Identification

For a possession charge to stick, the prosecution has to scientifically prove the substance they seized from you was an illegal drug. Crime labs make mistakes sometimes, resulting in false positives.

Your attorney can request additional confirmatory testing to verify the initial results. If the substance turns out to not be illegal, the drug charges should be dropped immediately.

Even if testing confirms an illegal drug, questioning the results can introduce reasonable doubt in some cases. For example, if the amount was very small and appeared inconsistent with distribution charges.

Using Medical Marijuana Exceptions

Many states have legalized medical marijuana, but you still need a valid medical card to use it legally. If you have a card, getting caught with marijuana likely won’t result in criminal charges.

However, not all officers recognize medical cards from other states. An experienced drug crimes lawyer can help get any charges dismissed by providing proof of your medical authorization.

If you didn’t have a valid card at the time, your attorney may still be able to work with the prosecutor to get the charges reduced or dropped by showing you qualify for medical use.

Challenging the Chain of Custody

The prosecution has to prove the drugs introduced as evidence in court are the exact same ones seized from you when you were arrested. This is called establishing chain of custody.

If the police mishandled the evidence or there are gaps in the chain of custody documentation, your lawyer can challenge the validity of the evidence. Since prosecutors have to prove chain of custody beyond a reasonable doubt, this defense can sometimes get drug charges dismissed.

Negotiating Plea Deals

One strategy your attorney may pursue is attempting to negotiate a plea deal with beneficial terms, such as getting certain charges dropped or penalties reduced.

Plea deals require you to plead guilty in exchange for an agreed upon outcome. Examples of potential benefits include:

  • Pleading to a lesser misdemeanor charge instead of a felony
  • Having the charges dismissed after a probation period
  • Entering a diversion program instead of jail time

While you give up your right to a trial, plea deals can sometimes offer the best way to avoid harsh mandatory minimum sentences associated with drug crimes. An experienced lawyer will know how to craft a favorable deal.

Using Affirmative Defenses

Certain circumstances allow defendants to admit possessing illegal drugs, but provide legal justifications absolving them of criminal liability. These are called affirmative defenses.

Some potential affirmative defense arguments in drug cases include:

  • Lack of knowledge – You didn’t know the substance was illegal
  • Involuntary intoxication – Someone slipped you drugs without your knowledge
  • Duress – You were forced to commit the crime under threat
  • Necessity – You possessed drugs to prevent a greater harm

While affirmative defenses are difficult to prove, they can sometimes get charges dismissed or reduced, especially in cases with extenuating circumstances.

Enrolling in Drug Court or Diversion

Many jurisdictions offer pretrial diversion programs or drug treatment courts as an alternative to jail time for drug offenders.

These programs require completing drug counseling, treatment, and random testing over a period of time, such as 6-12 months. By successfully finishing the program terms, you can avoid a criminal conviction.

Drug courts and diversion programs are restricted to those without extensive criminal histories charged with low level possession. Your lawyer can advise you if one of these alternatives may be available and beneficial in your case.

Contesting the Stop or Arrest

If the police didn’t have valid justification to stop or detain you in the first place, your lawyer can challenge the legality of the encounter.

Any evidence found as a result of an unlawful stop or arrest is subject to suppression. Getting a drug case dismissed often starts with scrutinizing the officer’s reason for initiating contact.

Some common illegal stop and arrest scenarios:

  • The police lacked reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop
  • You were arrested without probable cause
  • Officers detained you longer than reasonably necessary

Requesting a Preliminary Hearing

After an arrest, but before a criminal trial, your attorney can request a preliminary hearing. This is an opportunity to examine the prosecution’s evidence early on and identify any weaknesses in their case.

Successfully highlighting flaws in the state’s case during a preliminary hearing can sometimes convince prosecutors to reduce or even dismiss charges to avoid losing at trial.

Securing Expert Witnesses

Experts in areas like forensic science and police procedure can provide testimony to help discredit the prosecution’s evidence and establish reasonable doubt about your guilt.

Your lawyer may retain reputable expert witnesses to review the facts of your case and prepare reports summarizing their opinions. Their testimony could be instrumental in beating drug possession allegations.

Seeking Drug Treatment

If you suffer from drug addiction, informing prosecutors and entering treatment can potentially mitigate penalties or even convince them to dismiss your charges.

Completing a reputable rehab program demonstrates a commitment to overcoming addiction and getting your life back on track. Judges and prosecutors tend to look favorably on those who seek help.

Requesting Diversion for First-Time Offenders

Many district attorney offices have diversion programs for first-time offenders charged with simple drug possession. These programs allow charges to be dismissed once you complete drug counseling and probation.

As a first-time offender, your lawyer will advocate for your acceptance into a diversion program to avoid a conviction on your record. This outcome is preferable to jail time in most minor possession cases.

Scrutinizing the Police Report

The police report contains the officer’s accounting of the events leading up to your arrest. If your lawyer finds inconsistencies, inaccuracies, or omissions in the report, it calls the officer’s credibility into question.

Pointing out sloppy police reports can help get drug evidence suppressed or charges reduced or dismissed. Police mistakes in documentation help undermine their version of events.

Seeking Sentencing Alternatives

If you end up convicted on drug possession charges, your attorney will seek alternatives to incarceration during the sentencing phase.

Possible sentencing alternatives include:

  • Community service
  • House arrest
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Mandatory drug counseling

While avoiding jail time can be difficult for serious drug felonies, first-time offenders convicted of misdemeanor possession often receive probation or rehab instead of prison.


I hope this overview helps you understand some of the most effective strategies a knowledgeable drug crimes lawyer can use to defend against possession charges. The penalties for drug convictions are severe, so building the strongest defense is critical.

An experienced attorney will thoroughly examine the facts of your case, identify any police misconduct or sloppy investigating, and build arguments to get your charges dismissed or reduced. They will also negotiate with prosecutors aggressively to secure a favorable outcome.

No one wants to serve long mandatory minimum sentences if options exist to avoid conviction. With an experienced drug crimes lawyer fighting for your freedom, you can rest assured knowing you have the best defense possible against any drug charges you face.

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