Imagine the police find you in possession of an illegal substance. It’s virtually impossible to claim you didn’t have it, because possession inherently implies that you did. In this situation, it’s easy to feel hopeless. You can convince yourself that the cops have you “dead to rights,” and you might as well just admit everything to the police and give up any chance at a favorable outcome in your case.
Moreover, sometimes prosecutors will fill your mind with the scariest, maximum penalties for your crime. If you plead “not guilty,” they will say, you will lose your case and be heavily punished as a result. They will tell you that if you plead guilty, they can offer you a lighter sentence. It’s easier for them if you do. It gives them an easy “win” and saves the court time and money avoiding trial.
Do not be overwhelmed, and do not give in. In Virginia, you are innocent until proven guilty. No matter how “cut-and-dry” the evidence may seem, you still have a right to an attorney to help you defend your case.
Some common defenses against drug possession charges could be:
You Were Not the Owner of the Drugs
The police want you to believe that they can always convict you even if there is an issue in your case.. They can try, but always remember the standard of “reasonable doubt.” Intent is a big part of any successful conviction. Prosecutors must demonstrate that you not only had drugs in your possession that you should not have had but that you also knew or intentionally possessed the drugs. If, however, you can successfully argue that the drugs did not belong to you, that you had no idea they were even there, or that you had no idea what they even were, then you can begin to create doubt, which could prove harmful to the prosecution’s case.
In this defense, you claim that you were completely unaware of the drugs. Perhaps you were driving your friend’s car, and you were pulled over for speeding. The police search the vehicle, finding narcotics in the glove compartment. In such a case, you can easily argue that the car isn’t yours; you hadn’t inspected it before driving, and the drugs did not belong to you. Borrowing from others is often a big part of an unwitting possession defense. Borrowed clothes, for example, can have pockets containing any number of unknown items.
Lack of Possession
This claim says that, even if you were aware of the drugs, they weren’t yours. Imagine you and a group of friends are leaving a nightclub. Some of them are passing around a pill bottle, which one of them drops. The police find you all standing next to the bottle, and you are arrested for possession. Lack of possession says, quite simply, that the drugs were not yours. You didn’t bring them; you didn’t take them; you never even touched them. Such a defense can create enough reasonable doubt for a jury to find you innocent.
You have a prescription
An officer may find a drug on your that usually could lead to a conviction in many circumstances. However, you may have a prescription for that drug. If it was not in the pill bottle you got when you picked up your prescription from the pharmacy or you had your medicine stored in something other than the original container, you may need to show proof of your prescription. If you can show that to the officer when you are stopped, it could save you from being charged. However, if you are charged anyway or because you could not show proof of the prescription at that time, you will need to have that when you go to court so your attorney can use that to defend you.
You Were Under Duress
“Duress” can be defined as being forced to do something under a threat of violence. The drug world is known for its dangerous, shady characters. It’s not unreasonable to assume that sometimes, they force people to carry or distribute drugs for them. If you, for whatever reason, were operating out of fear for yourself or your loved ones, you can use this as a credible defense in court.
Question the Police’s Methods
The Consitution ensures that police investigations be handled in a way where your rights are not violated. Police cannot skirt the rules, no matter how “minor” they seem. In any good criminal defense, attorneys should scrutinize how the police made an arrest. If the authorities went outside the bounds of the law, your attorney can file a motion to suppress the evidence based on an improper stop or arrest, and your case could end up being dismissed if a judge rules in your favor.
The Police Broke the Plain View Rule
When the police are working on an arrest, they can add charges for any other illegal behaviors they observe. For example, if they arrest someone for stealing a car and also find drugs on that person, they can add a separate possession charge. Any illegal activity that is in “plain view” can be used against the accused.
Police do not, however, have the authority to go beyond the boundaries of a warrant. If a warrant says the cops may search the living room, it gives them no jurisdiction to wander into the bathroom or garage. If they find illegal narcotics outside their authorized area, they cannot claim that these drugs were in “plain view.”
The Police Abused Their Authority
Warrants and surveillance are issued within narrow parameters. The police, for instance, simply cannot wiretap your home without getting a warrant from a judge or magistrate. They cannot enter your residence without a warrant unless there are exigent circumstances like someone is screaming or they hear someone being harmed, etc. These are examples of the police abusing their authority.
Other examples of abuse include:
- Police assaulting a suspect
- Police ignoring Miranda warning
- The police planting drugs on a suspect
- Police asking for bribes or favors in exchange for letting you go
Police Used Coercive Methods
These days, there is more scrutiny surrounding questioning techniques. Sometimes, police are guilty of “breaking someone down.” They keep the accused for hours, telling them to confess to a crime. They give details and expect the suspect to agree. Attempting to convince the suspect, they will claim that if the suspect confesses, they’ll be let go. Sometimes, these methods cause a suspect to become desperate, and they simply go along with the authority’s narrative. They may even add details just to make the confession more credible. If the police use such methods, they can be challenged in court as not being voluntary.
Entrapment is another form of coercion. This is a process where authorities convince someone to commit a crime that they normally wouldn’t. Imagine someone approaches you with a fool-proof plan. All you must do is carry drugs across state lines, drop them off, and get paid. You turn them down, but they continue to sweeten the deal. They offer more and more money and even give you assurances that the police will never find out. Finally, you relent. As soon as you take the package, you are informed that this person was an undercover cop, and you are under arrest. This could be an example of entrapment.
If you’ve been accused of drug possession, you deserve a good defense, and we can help. For a free consultation, call our office at (703) 940-0001 or contact us online.