DC Drug Trials 

Following a drug arrest, individuals are arraigned and then receive the date of their trial. It can be overwhelming to navigate the trial process alone, which is why it is important to work with an experienced defense attorney. Your lawyer could conduct their own investigation, contact witnesses, and begin building your case. If you want to know more about DC drug trials, speak with a capable drug lawyer that could devote the time and resources necessary to achieve a positive outcome for you.

Jury Trials

Under DC criminal procedures, a person is entitled to a trial by jury when the offense the person faces carries a maximum possible penalty of more than 180 days in jail. Most misdemeanor drug offenses carry a maximum possible penalty of exactly 180 days. That means most misdemeanor drug offenses are not eligible to be heard before a jury. Felony drug offenses such as possession with intent to distribute, or distribution or possession of liquid PCP carry maximum possible penalties of more than 180 days. For example, possession of liquid PCP carries a maximum possible penalty of up to three years in prison which is more than 180 days. A person facing that charge is entitled to have a jury trial.

When individuals face multiple charges, they may be eligible to have their DC drug trials before a jury when the total sum of the maximum penalties for all charged offenses is more than two years of possible incarceration. For example, a person faces five separate misdemeanor drug possession charges, each of which carries a maximum 180 days of jail. Adding the five 180 day sentences together means the person faces a maximum possible penalty of more than two years of incarceration. In those situations, a person may be eligible to have their trial heard by a jury. Any person who is eligible has the right to waive a jury trial and have their case heard before a judge.

Contested Elements of Trials

Some of the most controversial and contested parts of DC drug trials involve the use of police informants. People who cooperate with the police get some benefit for themselves if they are able to successfully help the police make an arrest of other people. Many of these informants face charges and have an incentive to help the police make an arrest so they can minimize their own penalties or charges. These become heavily contested issues at trial. The defense attorney could identify some of the problems that arise from the police using informants such as their lack of reliability, or on occasion, the corruptions that may result from people who cooperate with the police to gain an advantage. The use of informants can be contested at trial.

Proving Possession

Other potentially contested elements in DC drug trials include questions over the prosecution’s ability to prove possession. Sometimes, the police claim they find drugs or alleged controlled substances physically on a person’s body. In many other drug cases, the police may claim that a person was in constructive possession. This might mean that a person was in the same car where the alleged drugs were found. Even though a person was in the house where drugs were allegedly found, it is not enough for police and prosecutors to place the person near a suspected controlled substance. The prosecutors have to prove that the person knew the location of the drugs and intended to exercise dominion and control over them. Prosecutors often try to use circumstantial evidence to prove constructive possession such as proximity to the drugs, or documents or mail with a person’s name on it being found near drugs. These types of evidence can be contested at trial by defense attorneys.

In many of these situations, innocent people who happen to be near drugs they are not aware of may find themselves facing charges for drugs they did not possess. Issues of constructive possession and the prosecutor’s ability to be able to prove that a person was in possession of an alleged controlled substance can be challenged at trial. The issues are often a source of potential defenses for a person facing this type of drug charges.