Building a Defense in DC Drug Cases

Defending drug possession charges can oftentimes be incredibly difficult without the experience of a knowledgeable drug possession attorney. A lawyer can provide a strong defense against a drug possession case and can help to ensure that any penalties against you are either reduced or dismissed.

Different Drug Charges

There are a number of different drug-related charges in D.C. They can range from a misdemeanor (simple possession of a drug, such as possession of cocaine for one’s own personal use) all the way up to a more serious felony level drug charge (such as drug distribution, possession with intent to distribute while armed, et cetera). These higher-level felony drug charges can be extremely problematic for a person’s life and can result in significant prison time, lengthy parole periods, felony criminal records, and in general, can leave a person scarred for life. Even misdemeanor drug charges come with their own consequences and complications. That is why it is important to be proactive and begin building a defense against DC drug charges.

Consequences of Drug Charges

Misdemeanor criminal charges, such as drug possession, can also potentially result in a person facing jail time or a permanent criminal record which could result in the loss of a person’s job or loss of custody over a child, and sometimes it can result in a person’s security clearance being revoked in the event that they work for the government or work for a government contractor. Some misdemeanor drug charges can result in a person losing their driving privileges, which can be especially problematic for people who have a commercial’s driver’s license, people who drive for their jobs, need to drive their family around, or take care of other people through the use of their car.

Any kind of drug charge can result in serious consequences for a person’s life. It is important not to underestimate any drug offense, regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. It is important to contact an attorney who has the background in defending drug charges and is familiar with the D.C. Court Rules and Procedures, the prosecutors, and the judges who handle these kinds of cases and can give a person the best possible chance of getting a good result.

Strategies for Defense

In a lot of drug possession cases, the police do not find the drug on the individual’s body. For example, this occurs if an individual is driving a car, or they are a passenger in a car, and the police stop the car and find drugs. Since the officers do not actually find the drugs on the individual, meaning that person is not in personal possession of the drugs, the officers will need to operate under what is called a constructive possession theory. DC Drug Possession Charges That means that the individual did not actually have the drugs on them, but they had the intent to control and possess those drugs because of where they were, and because of the circumstances.

One of the common defense strategies is to argue that the individual did not have the intent to control the drugs found nearby them. As an example, if an individual is a passenger in someone’s car, and the cops pull the driver over and there is a bag of cocaine found by the passenger seat, the passenger is the one that gets arrested as a result. The prosecutors need to be able to prove that this passenger actually had the intent to control this bag of cocaine that was by their seat, even if they were completely unaware. If an individual were to get into a car and see the cocaine there, but they did not say anything about it, the individual can not be presumed to be in possession of those drugs.

Challenges in Defending a Case

A lot of times, these cases come up in driving situations. Cars are one of the most frequent kinds of cases to see, because the police can pull an individual over for any number of traffic violations. It is a bit easier to do that than to come up to a person on the street and begin searching them. When an individual is driving a car it is very different, because that individual is on a public roadway. If an individual gets stopped for any traffic violations, the police can search the car as long as they have some reasonable suspicion that there is contraband in the car.
Challenging searches can be very important in these cases. As an example, if an individual gets pulled over for speeding, the cops can not search the car, because they can not expect to find any evidence that the individual is speeding by searching the car. Being able to figure out whether or not there is probable cause to have searched a car is a major challenge, but it is also very important for a lawyer to look for. A violation of Fourth Amendment rights may come into play when dealing with these cases.

One problem in those situations is when people give consent for the police to search the car. When an individual gives consent for a cop to search their car, all is fair game. At that point, it does not matter if the officers had probably cause to search the car because the driver consented. This is a major hurdle that comes up for a lot of people. At that point, the ability to challenge the search is much more difficult.

Common Mistakes

Consent to search is the biggest mistake that individuals make. This does not apply only to cars, but also if an individual is walking down the street, or is in their home. Anywhere an individual is, consent is considered an exception to the Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful search and seizure. For the most part, when an individual gives the police consent to search their home, their person, or anything else, it is fair game.

Another issue that comes up is people who make statements without a lawyer present. It is difficult to figure out whether or not to say something, so the best thing to do is to not say anything at all. A lot of people either forget to do that, or it does not occur to them at the time. The cops are going to ask very specifically, “Can I search your car?” For that, an individual has to be specific in saying, “No, you cannot search my car.” But for any other questions, it does not matter if the individual has been read their Miranda rights at that point or not, because sometimes the cops are allowed to ask questions without reading the Miranda rights. They only have to read an individual their Miranda rights once they have been placed in custody. At any point, an officer can ask an individual questions, and those answers are admissible as evidence. It is important for an individual to be incredibly careful with what they say at this point.

How an Attorney Could Help Build a Defense

Attorneys who understand D.C. rules, court procedures, and Constitutional issues around searches and traffic stops, can help a person challenge any evidence that may be used against them, investigate the evidence that the prosecutor plans on using, and aggressively approach the case to try and get them a dismissal of their charges, a reduction of their charges, or the most lenient sentence possible to minimize the penalties that they might be facing.

Having an attorney with that background and that understanding of D.C. drug cases can make a difference between a person having a permanent record and having a dismissal; facing a lengthy prison sentence and being placed on probation as opposed to going to jail.

When a person has their first meeting with the attorney, they should ask:

  • what they think can be done in the person’s case
  • what the person should expect on their first court date or subsequent court dates, and
  • what are some investigation tactics that they might be able to pursue to try and find witnesses who can help contradict the government’s evidence

These are all important things to discuss if a person is facing this kind of charge and they are reaching out to attorneys in order to begin building a defense against DC drug charges.

The Benefit of an Experienced DC Drug Attorney

Many people who are facing criminal charges in D.C. are surprised by how complicated D.C. criminal procedures can be. Some people, for example, may have a background with criminal cases in other states such as Maryland and expect criminal cases to be resolved through a single court appearance or through minimal effort by defense attorneys. In D.C. there are a number of court appearances that they have to attend, even in a misdemeanor criminal case, and the confusing and cumbersome procedures in D.C. can be complicated, even for attorneys who have a lengthy amount of experience in other states, who may find themselves somewhat at a loss when trying to navigate through the D.C. criminal procedure.

Having an attorney with a background in D.C. criminal law, who frequently handles drug charges in D.C. Superior Court, is absolutely essential. The procedures and laws, prosecutors and judges, are different from state-to-state.  Even an experienced criminal defense attorney, who has a background mostly in Maryland, Virginia, or some other state, may not have the requisite background in D.C. law to be able to fully explore the person’s options, and use D.C. procedure to the person’s greatest advantage. It would be prudent for a person who is looking for an attorney to represent them in a drug-related case in the D.C. Superior Court, to find an attorney with experience in the D.C. courts defending drug charges. Only an attorney with that kind of background is going to be able to make the best use of D.C. rules procedures to protect someone’s interests. If an individual needs help building a defense against DC drug charges, they should speak with a capable drug lawyer that could fight for them.