Being accused of a criminal drug possession charge doesn’t automatically make you a user or a criminal. Being charged with possession, however, can make you feel like one.
Drug laws vary widely from state to state and can be as minor as paying a ticket for a small baggie of marijuana to potentially serving several years in prison for being caught with a large amount of heroin. In many states, if this is your first offense, you could get off fairly easily.
Many things affect how your case can turn out including the drug you were caught with, how much you allegedly had, the state you are charged in, and any extenuating circumstances (a firearm, your criminal history, etc.).
Federal Drug Schedules
The Federal government categorizes drugs based on their potential for addiction and their health risks. These categories or “schedules” are also used in most states to determine the seriousness of your drug offense.
Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and typically carry the strictest sentences while the risk and subsequent penalties decrease slightly as the numbers climb.
Schedule I: LSD, Heroin, Mescaline, Ecstasy (MMDA)
Schedule II: Cocaine, Methamphetamines, Methadone, Prescription opiates like Oxycontin and Percocet.
Schedule III: Steroids, Valium, Xanax, and other prescription drugs
Some states have up to 6 categories while others simply classify drugs as “dangerous” and “narcotics”.
Drug Possession Penalties
Aside from marijuana, many drug possession charges in the U.S. are considered felonies. While there are exceptions, this is typically true whether you are suspected of possession of crack or a possession prescription drug that you are not authorized to have.
As a rule, felonies carry a potential sentence that is greater than one year in prison.
However in most first offense simple drug cases, the likelihood that you will serve time in prison is dramatically reduced. This is due to legislators and state government moving towards rehabilitation and treatment centered resolutions instead of incarceration.
But this varies widely from state to state. Many jurisdictions are finally beginning to see minor possession cases as not a huge criminal issue, and more of a public health issue. But not all states have come to the same level of enlightenment on this, so getting legal help from an attorney in your state is almost always the safe choice.
Deferred Prosecution in Drug Cases
Typically saved for first-time drug offenders, programs called “deferred prosecution”, “delayed judgment” or other diversions are designed to give people a second chance. These programs require you to serve a period of probation or satisfy other requirements of the court in order to get the charges against you dropped.
Just who qualifies for these programs varies from state to state and offense to offense. Contact our group of legal professionals to assist you in determining if programs like these might be an option for you.
Some states have criminal courts set up solely to handle charges such as these. Courts like this are able to put defendants in touch with the programs that they need to stay out of trouble. Drug courts set up strict monitoring and testing programs for drug use. Probation is a common result of these courts and they often use drug treatment programs and various community resources to ensure that people are successful. For more details, see our drug courts article.
Beating a Drug Charge
Any drug case hinges on the evidence that the prosecution has against you. Without the drugs the prosecution doesn’t usually have much of a case.
Because of this, digging through the evidence and evaluating how it was seized will be one of your attorney’s main courses of action. If we can prove that the evidence was taken in violation of your rights, we stand to get the charges against you dropped.
In addition, if the drugs were not physically in your possession at the time of your arrest, we could argue that they weren’t yours at all. The burden is on the state to prove you possessed the drugs. All we have to do is create a “reasonable doubt” in the mind of the judge or the jury.
These are just a couple of possible defense strategies. The best way to fight your specific case depends on the specific facts of your situation. An experienced criminal lawyer who knows how to beat drug cases will be able to provide you insight into what is likely to be the best strategy in your specific case.
Get a Legal Consultation on any Drug Possession Charge
When up against drug charges it is normal to be stressed and you should be concerned about what these charges mean for your future. Being able to put your confidence in an attorney that is equipped to handle your case can be a blessing.
Contact us today for a free consultation on your case and some legal advice on the next steps you should take, and find out what an experienced drug possession defense attorney can do to help.