If you face drug charges, this type of crime can be very serious. The law prohibits the possession of controlled substances unless prescribed by a physician. Controlled substances include drugs such as marijuana, amphetamines and cocaine. There are also a number of prescription drugs that are illegal if possessed without the benefit of a prescription.
Possession of any quantity of illegal drugs can bring a jail or prison term, depending on the quantity of the drug and on how the law classifies the dangerousness of the drug. Possession of even the smallest amount of some drugs, like cocaine, can result in a conviction and a possible jail sentence.
Narcotics cases are commonly prosecuted under one of three ways. Either simple possession, possession with intent to sell, and sales or transportation.
Possession of Narcotics
Simple possession is just as it sounds, it is a crime to possess a useable quantity of narcotics and could result in drug charges. Possession occurs either directly, (in a suspects pocket or somewhere on their person) or indirectly if found in an area of their control, (in the glove compartment or trunk of a car, in a persons purse or briefcase, in the pocket of a jacket hanging in a closet).
A person charged with unlawful possession may be convicted with drug charges if he or she is either in actual or constructive possession of the drug. A person who knowingly has physical control over a drug is in actual possession. A person who has the power and intention to exercise dominion and control over a drug is in constructive possession of the drug.
Possession with intent to sell is commonly proved by either the way the narcotic is packaged, or the quantity. A person may possess a relatively small amount of drugs (one or two grams) but it may be packaged in small, tenth gram bindles. This would give rise to the inference the drug was going to be sold. Or a suspect may be caught with a large amount of narcotics, leading the police to believe it was destined to be sold to others.
Sales and Transportation of Narcotics
Sales or transportation occur when a person either gives away or sells any quantity of drugs. It may also be prosecuted if a person is found driving with drugs on their person or in the car.
Sometimes when a person is arrested on drug charges, the police will confiscate a car, home, or other property regardless of whether the owner is the same person in possession of the drug. The owner must then file a claim for the return of the property. The time limits for filing such a claim are short and strictly enforced. Usually, drugs are found as a result of a police search. Therefore, a central issue with drug offenses is usually whether proper legal procedures were followed.
A common defense to possession (or possession with intent to sell) is a lack of knowledge. Examples – “I didn’t know the drugs were in my pocket. I was late for work this morning and threw on the first pair of pants I found. It turns out they belonged to my brother. I didn’t know he kept a tenth of a gram of drugs in his pocket.” Or – “My friend just gave me a ride. I did not know there was five pounds of cocaine in the trunk of his car.” If you face drug charges, contact a criminal defense lawyer in your area.