Many of our clients face drug and illegal narcotic charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Some of these people have never been in any criminal trouble and are now in danger of going to state prison! I’ve always told my friends and family that a drug charge can happen to anyone because we’ve all been around people who may not really know well. I have known friends from law school, college and even my military service who have had trouble with the law at different levels.
If you are charged with a drug crime, it’s critical that you understand the 5 issues that I will lay out in this short article. Obviously, every criminal case is different but understanding these 5 issues will allow you to actively participate in your defense. Your defense lawyer should address each of these issues during the course of his representation of you. If your attorney doesn’t discuss these issues with you, don’t be afraid to ask him or her. I created my website’s free download section specifically because I wanted my client to understand every aspect of their defense. Here are the 5 critical issues in drug crime cases.
- There is a big difference possession with intent to deliver and simple possession
Possession with Intent to Deliver (PWID) is a felony and simple possession is a misdemeanor. A felony conviction could subject you a state prison sentence in addition to substantially hindering your educational and professional opportunities. Conspiracy to commit PWID subjects you to the same type of penalties and consequences. Simple possession of a controlled substance like marijuana, cocaine, crack and heroin is an ungraded misdemeanor. Even if you’re convicted for simple possession, there is much less of a stigma associated with this type of conviction than a felony conviction. In addition, under Pennsylvania’s new record sealing law, you can petition the court to seal your misdemeanor drug record 10 years after a conviction.
- The prosecution can’t prove possession with intent to deliver (PWID) without either an expert witness or an observed transaction
If you are charged with PWID, ask your criminal defense lawyer about the strength of the prosecution’s expert or if they plan on presenting evidence of observed drug transactions. The assistant district attorney (ADA) (prosecution) will have to present this type of evidence to gain a conviction for PWID. If ADA plans on using an expert, your attorney should focus on the basis for the expert’s opinion along with alternative theories. Your defense can also present its own expert to help establish reasonable doubt. Remember that the goal of a criminal defense isn’t to prove innocence but to establish reasonable doubt. If the prosecution uses observed drug sales, prime areas for defense attack include the lack of arrested buyers, poor lighting, distance and the inability to articulate the type of packaging (color).
- You will lose your driver’s license for any type of drug possession (felony or misdemeanor conviction)
I’ve written previous article on this topic and most people think that a driver’s license suspension is only a consequence of a DUI or Drunk Driving conviction – WRONG! If you’re convicted of any type of drug crime, however, PENNDOT will suspend your license for 6 months. This suspension will be consecutive to any other suspension (DUI, traffic point violations). While obviously a successful motion to suppress (illegal search and seizure) or an acquittal (not guilty) will prevent a license suspension, a plea to possession of drug paraphernalia a will also prevent one.
- Police don’t need to find the drugs on you for a court to find you guilty
Actual vs. Constructive possession are critical parts of any criminal drug defense strategy. These concepts apply to illegal drug, gun and firearm cases. Actual constructive means that the drug was found on your person whereas constructive possession means that it was found in the area of your immediate control. The prosecution only needs to establish constructive possession beyond a reasonable doubt so don’t start doing cartwheels just because police arrested you and the drugs weren’t in your pocket. Your attorney must attack the prosecution’s theory of constructive possession with alternative theories that focus on your lack of knowledge of the drug.
- Drug search warrants must might a specific criteria and police must follow specific procedure
Your drug case may involve a search warrant. I encourage you to read my article on this to understand more about this issue. Your lawyer should attack a warrant during pre-trial motion to suppress evidence. Keep in mind that your attorney can’t get into these issues at a preliminary hearing because it’s too early or at trial because it’s too late. Many drug cases involve warrantless searches but again this is an issue that your attorney must go after before trial.
Drug crimes are serious and representing yourself is a total mistake. Take some time to review all of the free materials on this website. I look forward to speaking with you!