Florida courts have little sympathy for drug offenders. In fact, the state’s list of controlled substances is lengthy, and the penalties for possessing controlled substances are severe.
As Norml explains, a conviction for possessing marijuana could come with a 15-year jail sentence and a fine up to $10,000 – if you are near specified areas, such as colleges, schools and parks. Those facing charges of drug possession usually succumb to overwhelming anxiety, fear and stress, and Florida’s stance on drug offenses provides good reason for worry.
A criminal attorney in Fort Lauderdale can help you unravel the state’s drug laws and structure a legal defense. Call Leader & Leader, PA at 954-523-2020 for a free initial consultation to discuss your charges. Until then, here are five common defenses to use against allegations of drug possession:
- Police Misconduct
Illegal search and seizure practices are only one form of police misconduct, and it occurs more frequently than most people realize – especially during drug arrests. At Leader & Leader, P.A. they are highly effective at finding the legal issues that can be used to challenge or throw out evidence in your case, often resulting in the State’s inability to move forward with you charges when they can demonstrate that police found the drugs through an illegal search. Unlawfully obtained evidence is generally not admissible in trial against you. The key is to try to win the case without having to expose a client to the risks associated with trial. However, should your case need to be tried, Leader & Leader, P.A. has the skill, willingness and ability to fight for the firm’s clients at any level whether an evidentiary hearing or trial!
The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects your rights against the intrusion of government agencies. The police may not violate your rights with an unlawful search and seizure. In many cases, the police must have a court-signed warrant to search your property, and this includes your vehicle. However, there are exceptions such as roadside stops and exigent circumstances if the officer has probable cause. The bottom line is, these can be complex issues that need to be carefully reviewed to determine the best way to go about defending your case and charges.
- Forensic Evidence
The drugs that the police find in your possession generally must undergo tests in a laboratory to prove their illegal status. Most often, prosecutors cannot use untested drugs as evidence. However, in many instances, marijuana can be identified based upon an officers training and experience and has been deemed an exception to the testing and laboratory analysis required in many drug cases.
Unfortunately, many household substances resemble drugs, and police can mistakenly arrest people for innocent medications, herbs and powders. If the substance is legal, then your case may be subject to dismissal or nolle prosse by the State.
- Drugs Did Not Belong to You
The prosecution has the burden of proving that you were the rightful owner of the drugs and/or you were in possession and had knowledge of the possession as well as the illicit nature of the substance. This is not easy, however, as many scenarios result in arresting the wrong person.
For example, if someone asks you to carry a bag, then it is not yours. Any passenger in a car with many people could have owned the drugs, or the arrest could have occurred at a time when you were driving a friend home in his or her car. When drugs are found in the area of vicinity but not on you personally, it is frequently referred to as “constructive possession”. In many constructive possession cases, if no one makes a statement admitting knowledge or ownership of the drug, a good defense attorney can make it difficult, if not impossible, for the State to prove its case often resulting the charges being dropped or dismissed for Leader & Leader, P.A.’s clients.
- Insufficient Evidence & Chain of Custody
If the evidence is not sufficient for a conviction, then you can use this argument in your defense. Drugs can disappear en route to the evidence locker. They sometimes travel through various destinations before they enter the courtroom. The prosecutor must provide the exact drugs found in your possession, or the court will likely dismiss the case. A good criminal defense lawyer will carefully examine all “chain of custody” issues, testing issues and how the drugs were stored and maintained from arrest until trial.
- Planted Drugs
It is never easy to prove that police planted drugs in an attempt to catch you or increase their arrest rates. However, several avenues exist that can help you gather evidence.
With enough evidence, your criminal defense lawyer can request the files of the officers in question. Your attorney can interview other officers and possible victims, as well as look for similar complaints in their background.
It is always wise to use a defense strategy that applies to your particular circumstances. There are many available defenses to choose from that could help your case, but building a specific defense around your unique situation will offer the best outcome. To learn your options, call Leader & Leader, PA at 954-523-2020 for legal guidance.