Just because a police officer claims that he or she found drugs in your car, at your home or even on you does not necessarily equate to a conviction. Be careful not to give up your right to challenge possession charges. Even a conviction for a misdemeanor drug crime can potentially ruin your future.
So how do I challenge the charges?
As the saying goes, “a good defense is the best offense.” Before accepting the judgment of police and prosecutors, one of the following defenses against drug possession charges might result in a reduction or dismissal of the charges:
1. The drugs might belong to someone else. Prosecutors must prove that the drugs belonged to you. When police find drugs in a car full of people, prosecutors must establish that you knew they existed and you possessed them. Similarly, if police find drugs in a home you share with others, the same hurdles exist for prosecutors.
2. The search and seizure of the drugs might constitute a violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. The U.S. Constitution prohibits law enforcement from conducting a search of your vehicle or your premises without your permission or a search warrant (legal permission from a judge for the search). For example, if a police officer pulls you over and searches your car without your permission or a search warrant, an Illinois court might not allow the admission of the drugs into evidence. An exception exists for drugs or drug paraphernalia that the officer sees in “plain view.” For example, an item laying on the dashboard or the seat might satisfy this requirement.
3. The search and seizure might also fail to be legal if the officer did not possess a valid, legal reason (probable cause) for stopping your car or searching your home.
4. Just because a substance looks like a drug does not prove that it is a drug, so a crime lab must test it for verification.
5. Prosecutors must produce the alleged drugs to the court. Failure to do so for whatever reason could result in a dismissal of the charges.
6. A police officer might plant the drugs. Ordinarily, proving this requires evidence of misconduct on the part of the officer. Casting doubt on the officer’s integrity might prove challenging, but a pattern of complaints by other people could create that doubt.
7. If you committed a crime that you would not ordinarily commit, you might claim entrapment. For example, if someone coerced you into passing drugs to someone else, the court might consider that entrapment. In these cases, officials often provide the drugs involved.
8. You use medical marijuana and possess a valid registration card. In order to use medical marijuana usage as a defense, you cannot possess more marijuana than the law allows, you must prove you suffer from a qualifying medical condition and you must possess a doctor’s recommendation.
As you can see, just because you face drug possession charges, that does not prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The police and prosecutors must follow the law and established procedures before the court accepts any supposed evidence.
An attorney will review the alleged evidence, the procedures employed by police officers and laboratory technicians, and the statements of any alleged witnesses. Any flaws found in the prosecution’s case could result in a dismissal or reduction of the charges. Even when the circumstances take a dismissal of the charges off the table, alternatives to jail time, such as treatment programs, might reduce the potential impact of the charges on your life.