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Defenses for Drug Possession

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What Is Drug Possession?

Drug possession, or possession of controlled substances, is one of the more serious types of drug crimes. Depending on the type of drugs involved, as well as the amount of drugs, the charges can range from misdemeanor charges to more serious felony charges. 

Also, possession with the intent to distribute drugs can result in even more strict legal penalties. Sometimes possessing drugs over a certain amount automatically results in a presumption of an intent to distribute. 

What Are Some Defenses for Drug Possession?

Depending on the nature of the criminal charges, and the surrounding circumstances, the defendant may have a number of defenses to charges of drug possession. While defending against drug possession charges can sometimes be difficult, there are a number of defenses that can be raised. These can include:

  • Unlawful or illegal search and seizure: Evidence cannot be submitted for trial if it was obtained illegally (for example, if the police did not secure a valid warrant beforehand)
  • Drugs belong to another person: In some cases, this can work as a defense. However, “constructive possession” laws sometimes allow a person to be found guilty even if the drugs weren’t theirs
  • Not actually a controlled substance: Some substances may look like drugs but really are not illegal or controlled substances. You may request for chemical lab tests to prove that the substance wasn’t a drug
  • Missing evidence: If evidence is lost during the course of trial, it may weaken the prosecution’s case. This sometimes happens when evidence is transferred from place to place during the course of the hearings.
  • Duress or Coercion: If you were forced to carry or hold drugs for someone else, it may serve as a defense (for example, if you were held at gunpoint and ordered to transport drugs)
  • Immunity: If you were arrested for drug possession solely because you called to obtain medical help for an overdone, you may be protected from being prosecuted under a drug overdose immunity law.

Is Drug Possession a Felony?

The legal classification for drug possession can range from a simple traffic citation to serious felony charges. This depends a few different factors, including:

  • The type of substance involved (generally, the more dangerous the substance, the more strict the penalty)
  • The amount of drugs possessed
  • Whether the defendant possessed the drugs for personal consumption or for sales/distribution

Traffic citations and misdemeanors may result in criminal fines. In comparison, felonies usually result in a very high monetary fine (sometimes several thousands of dollars) and prison sentences for longer than one year. Repeat offenses can result in felony charges as well.  In some cases, the defendant can argue for alternative sentencing options such as community service, or they may qualify for reduced or dropped charges.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Drug Possession Defenses?

Defenses for drug possession can vary according to the types of charges involved. Also, each state has different laws when it comes to criminal defenses for drug cases. Thus, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately if you have any concerns involving drug possession. Your attorney can provide you with valuable legal advice, and can provide you with legal representation during a criminal trial. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 05-12-2016 10:45 PM PDT

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