If you have been arrested for drug possession in California, this misdemeanor crime can result in a county jail sentence of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, and a permanent criminal record which can cause substantial damage to your personal life and professional reputation. If you are charged with possession with intent to sell or distribute, you
One of the most important steps to take to protect your rights and future is hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney can investigate your arrest and determine whether there are any viable legal defenses to challenge the evidence and testimony against you. From procedural errors to police misconduct, there are several types of defenses to help you either get your entire case dismissed or your penalties significantly reduced.
Common types of drug possession defenses include the following:
- The drugs belong to someone else – Also known as the “unwitting possession” defense, while you had possession of the illicit substances, you are not guilty because you didn’t know you had them on your person in the first place. For example, let’s say you borrow a friend’s car to run errands, but then police pull you over and discover drugs located in the center console after searching the vehicle. If you are unaware of the presence of drugs, you cannot be held liable to actual drug possession if you are caught with them. “Lack of possession” is another type of legal defense which is often associated with the “dominion and control” factor. For instance, if you are pulled over with several people in the car and drugs are found, it is difficult to accuse just one person of drug possession since dominion and control are required to prove constructive possession.
- Unlawful search and seizure – All citizens are protected against unlawful search and seizure, according to the Fourth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution. Unless you give the police consent to search your home or vehicle, or if the drugs are in plain view after a legal traffic stop, law enforcement needs to establish probable cause or present a warrant in order to conduct a lawful search. If your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, any evidence—including the substances in question—is considered inadmissible in court. Without any evidence to prove guilt, your case will most likely be dismissed.
- Lab proof – Under the law, prosecutors must prove that the drugs collected by police are actually illicit substances. The drugs are sent to a crime lab for analysis, then the analyst will testify in the courtroom that the illicit substances were verified. If the drugs are not what they appear to be, then your case will be dismissed.
- Entrapment – Police officers can set up sting operations. However, if an officer or informant forces a person into committing a crime that he/she otherwise wouldn’t have committed, then it is considered entrapment. For substance, if an undercover officer pressures you to take a drug or give them to another party, this is deemed entrapment.
- Planted drugs – Since testimony by law enforcement officials carry significant weight at trial, arguing the drugs were planted could be tough to prove. In addition, other officers could be hesitant to testify against a fellow officer. However, your lawyer can file a motion to release the complaint file or even body camera footage of your arrest.