Drug possession can be a serious and life-altering crime to be charged with, in which case you will need a skilled Oklahoma drug lawyer, to defend you. To be charged with drug possession means to willfully possess illegal controlled substances, such as marijuana; although, it can vary according to drug type, amount, and geographic area of the offense.
If you are busted in possession of small quantities, it is referred to as “simple” possession, while possession of large amounts may result in a charge of presumed “possession with intent to distribute.” The latter charge typically carries much harsher penalties upon conviction, as compared to simple possession, in the interest of both punishing and deterring drug dealers.
Oklahoma Drug Lawyer Guide: Proving Drug Possession in Court
If a prosecutor wants to prove drug possession, he must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the drug in question was a controlled substance, and that he or she knowingly had possession of, or control over, the drug. This may also include what is known as “constructive possession,” or access to an illegal drug, rather than actually have it on their person, such as someone who has keys to a van containing narcotics. To prove possession with intent to sell, on the other hand, a prosecutor must present evidence such as storage baggies, digital scales, large amounts of the drug, cash in small bills, or even testimony from witnesses.
Oklahoma Drug Lawyer Guide: Drug Possession Penalties and Sentencing
Though it varies from state to state, those convicted on drug possession charges face a wide gamut of penalties if found guilty, which can range from a fine of less than a hundred dollars and a few days in jail to fines of thousands of dollars and several years in state prison. As you can probably discern, simple drug possession sentences are typically the lightest, while intent to distribute drugs or the cultivation/manufacturing of drugs are the harshest. In some situations, prosecutors will offer plea deals to defendants who may be able to help them with a higher-priority investigation, like the arrest of an organized crime leader.
As mentioned above, states can vary in sentencing, depending on the type of drug, the weight of the drug and the number of prior convictions an offender has. For example, Kentucky has some of the toughest provisions, with the simple possession of first offenders carrying two to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. In contrast, California has some of the lightest drug possession sentences: between $30 and $500 in fines and 15 to 180 days in jail.
Oklahoma Drug Lawyer Guide: Potential Defenses for Drug Possession
Though it may seem hopeless, there are some potentially effective defenses that a skilled drug attorneys like Oklahoma Interstate Defense will use against these charges.
- No knowledge of the drugs. One of the elements of the crime of drug possession is that it was willful A skilled defense attorney will pressure prosecutors to prove that the marijuana found in the car actually belonged to his client and not one of the other passengers.
- The Constitution. The Constitution comes in handy in more ways than one for situations like these—like if a law enforcement officer performs an unlawful search and seizure. If this is the case then some or all of the evidence may be excluded. This falls under the rights granted by the Fourth Amendment, guaranteeing the right to due process of law, including lawful search and seizure procedures prior to an arrest. If the Illicit drugs are found in “plain view,” such as a car’s dashboard after a legal traffic stop, it may be seized and used as evidence; however, if the drugs are found in the trunk of a car after the officer opens with a crowbar (assuming the suspect did not give permission), that evidence cannot be deemed admissible.
- The drugs are missing. A skilled attorney will make sure prosecutors are able to produce the actual drugs for which their client is being charged. Similar to the need for crime lab analysis, prosecutors who lose or otherwise lack the actual drugs, risk having their case dismissed. Seized drugs often get transferred several times before ending up in the evidence locker, so it should never be assumed that the evidence still exists during trial.
- The drugs were planted. This may be difficult to prove, since a police officer’s sworn testimony carries a lot of weight in the courtroom. Furthermore, other officers may be reluctant to blow the whistle on a fellow officer. But an attorney can file a motion that, if approved by the judge, requires the department to release the complaint file of the given officer. This file contains the names and contact of information of those who made the complaints, who can then be interviewed by your attorney or a private investigator.
- A medical marijuana exception. The medical use of marijuana is never a defense in federal court, but it may be in states where medical marijuana has been legalized. States with such exceptions to marijuana laws typically require a doctor’s signed recommendation. But some of those states also provide for an affirmative defense by those arrested on marijuana possession charges who are able to show clear and convincing evidence of medical necessity.
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