Drug Offenses

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If you have been charged with a drug offense, you should contact a Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer with experience handling drug cases.

Any drug-related conviction has the potential to drastically affect your life.  Most offenses can even result in prison time.  While being charged with a drug offense can be overwhelming, you should not despair.

Since I began handling drug cases years ago, I have frequently heard people say things like, “What is the point of hiring a lawyer to fight my drug case?  They found it on me.”  But even if the police found drugs on your person, there are still sound reasons to hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney who has experience fighting drug cases.

There are defenses in drug cases.

There are many possible defenses in drug cases.  Every defense is dependent upon the individual facts in your case.  For this reason, you should be sure to discuss the specifics of your case with a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney.  Below are some examples of possible defenses in drug cases.

Possible Defense #1: A Bad Search

Many drug cases begin when an officer searches a person or a place.  The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution governs searches and seizures conducted by government entities, like the police.  The Fourth Amendment states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In general, this means that the police must get a warrant supported by probable cause before executing a search on a person or a place.  There are, however, a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement which frequently come into play in drug cases.

For example, police may search an individual after validly arresting the individual.  Preston v. United States, 376 U.S. 364 (1964).  However, the arrest may not be used as a pretext for conducting a search.  Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31 (1979).  This is true even if contraband is found during an illegal search.  MacDougald v. State, 124 Ga. App 619 (1971).  It follows, then, that one possible defense is that, if there were no legal grounds for the original arrest, the search would be illegal.

Police may also search vehicles without a warrant in some circumstances.  American courts have found that individuals have a lower expectation of privacy in vehicles than they do in their homes, and thus have more readily upheld vehicle searches that would not have been valid in other situations.  U.S. v. Chadwick, 433 U.S. 1 (1977).  Courts have reasoned that, because vehicles are inherently mobile, there are sufficiently exigent circumstances to justify forgoing the warrant requirement.  Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938 (1996).  Police may search a stopped vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe that contraband or other evidence of a crime will be found within the vehicle.  Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132 (1925).  Probable cause is determined upon the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interaction.  It is not a particularly high bar.  However, the police may not act arbitrarily or rely solely on an illegal reason (for example, the race of the person stopped) to justify probable cause.  Additionally, the underlying stop must also be supported by evidence.  Thus, possible defenses to a vehicle search are that either the police lacked probable cause for the search, or that the underlying stop was bad.

Police may also request consent to search just about anything – your person, your home, your car, etc.  They do not need probable cause to ask for your consent to search.  Hall v. State, 239 Ga. 832 (1977).  If you are asked by police for consent to search and police do not have a warrant, you should never give consent to search.  Instead, you should calmly but firmly assert that you do not consent to any searches.  Do not argue, fight, or respond with force, as this may lead to additional charges such as obstruction of justice.  Consent must be freely and voluntarily given.  Thus, if police use coercive methods to obtain consent, the consent may be deemed invalid.

If the police conduct an illegal search that violates the Fourth Amendment, any resulting evidence is subject to being suppressed from evidence, meaning that the evidence is not admissible in the government’s case-in-chief.  Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961).  See also O.C.G.A. § 17-5-30.  If the suppressed evidence includes drugs discovered as a result of an illegal search, the prosecution’s entire case may fall apart.  Above were just a few examples of the many Fourth Amendment defenses that exist in drug cases.  Only your Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney can analyze the facts of your case and determine if any of these defenses apply to your case.

Possible Defense #2: No Possession

If you have been accused of a drug crime (and specifically with possession of drugs), it is important to note that Georgia law recognizes two distinct types of possession: actual and constructive.  Actual possession occurs when an individual knowingly has direct physical control over a thing at a given time—for example, if drugs are found in your pocket during a police search.  If, however, a person does not physically possess the drugs, but knowingly has both the power and intention to exercise authority or control over them, he or she is considered to have constructive possession.  For example, if drugs are found in a vehicle, overzealous police routinely charge everyone in the vehicle with possession under the doctrine of constructive possession.  There are defenses to the constructive possession doctrine, though.  For example, your Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer may seek to prove, based on the facts of your case that, while you may have been in the vehicle with the illegal substance, you did not know it was there.

Even if you think you want to plead guilty, an attorney can get you the best possible outcome.

A drug case is something to take seriously.  Most drug charges carry mandatory minimum sentences.  This means that prison time is a very real possibility, and a term on probation is almost a certainty.  That said, drug charges carry a range of possible sentences.  In most courts, pleas may be either negotiated or blind.  In a negotiated plea, your lawyer works out a deal with the prosecutor.  A Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney who is skilled at negotiating and advocating for your interests is very important at this phase.  Ideally, both parties are satisfied with the outcome at the end, and the negotiated deal is presented to the judge, who may accept or reject the plea deal.  While jurisdictions vary, most judges are inclined to accept pleas as negotiated.  Some defendants see this as a “safer” option, as they have a good idea of the likely outcome before they go before the judge.

Sometimes, though, prosecutors are not willing to make acceptable offers.  In that case, defendants may opt for a “blind” plea.  During a blind plea, the State makes its recommendation for an appropriate sentence to the judge, and the Defense does as well.  The judge may do whatever he or she desires, so long as it is within the sentencing range.  Here, it is essential to have an experienced courtroom attorney on your side who can plead your case to the judge.

Ultimately, it is very beneficial to have a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney on your side during all phases of a drug case.  Different jurisdictions, and ever different judges within jurisdictions, handle drug cases very differently.  For example, a defendant with a felony drug case in Fulton County is looking at a much different outcome than one in Coweta or Lumpkin Counties.  You need an attorney who knows the law, understands the defenses, who knows the jurisdictions, and can successfully advocate on your behalf.

I understand the complexities of Georgia Drug Offenses and know how to look at the individual case circumstances to build the strongest possible defense. Contact my office today for a free consultation for the experienced support you need for your case.

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