If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug possession crime, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you to understand what legal defenses might be applicable under the facts of your case. Below are some of the more common drug possession defenses and legal strategies.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
One of the most common defenses raised in drug possession cases is to argue that the police unlawfully searched for drugs and/or seized drugs from you, in violation of your rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Sometimes, police are able to see drugs in plain view while undertaking the lawful course of their duties, such as seeing a bag of heroin on the passenger seat of a vehicle while conducting a traffic stop for running a red light. However, in some cases police conduct an unlawful warrantless search of a person or their belongings, their vehicle, or their home, and find drugs therein. If drugs were seized as part of a search that violated a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights, the trial court may decide to exclude the drugs from evidence, which usually results in the dismissal of charges arising from possession of those drugs.
Lack of Possession
In cases where drugs are not found on a person, the element of possession becomes a hotly contested issue. For example, when drugs are found in a car with multiple occupants, the prosecution may charge all the occupants with possession. However, one or more occupants may be able to argue that they were not legally in possession of the drugs, which belonged to someone else. The drugs may have been under the driver’s seat, which can allow a passenger who was simply getting a ride to argue that they had no knowledge of or control over those drugs. Additionally, if following arrest, the owner of the drugs is willing to take responsibility for the possession, charges against the other occupants of the car may be dismissed.
Unreliable Lab Results
It is necessary for the prosecution to prove that seized substances that are presumed to be drugs are actually illegal drugs (called controlled dangerous substances, or “CDS” under New Jersey law). Therefore, the police are required to send samples of the seized drugs to a laboratory for chemical analysis to confirm that they are in fact illegal drugs. However, it may be possible to challenge the reliability of the lab results, such as by showing that the lab equipment was not properly calibrated or that proper testing protocols were not followed.
Chain of Evidence/Custody
It may also be possible to have drug possession charges dismissed by pointing out a break in the chain of evidence (also called chain of custody) of any seized drugs. For example, the seized drugs may be missing from the police or prosecution’s custody, so there would no longer be any physical proof that the drugs even existed. Or the prosecution may be unable to show that any drugs presented into evidence were the drugs actually seized from the defendant, due to lapses in paperwork documenting the chain of custody of the drugs.
Finally, you may be able to show that you legally possessed the drugs you were found with. For example, you may have a valid prescription for controlled substance medications. Or if you were found in possession of marijuana, having a valid medical marijuana license negates any criminal liability for possession of marijuana as long as the marijuana you possessed was dispensed pursuant to a prescription.
Contact an Experienced Monmouth County Drug Defense Attorney About Your Drug Crime Charges in New Jersey
Have you been charged with a drug-related offense in New Jersey? A drug crime conviction can carry with it heavy fines or jail time! That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified drug defense lawyer about your case. The lawyers at Aydelotte & Scardella Law LLC represent clients charged with use, possession, production, distribution, and related drug offenses in Mercer County, Burlington County, Camden County and throughout New Jersey. Call (609) 250-9761 or fill out our confidential online contact form to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have an office located at 2653 Nottingham Way, Ste. 1, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619 and 109 E. Atlantic Ave Audubon, NJ 08106.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.