Controlled substances are drugs which are regulated by local, state, or the federal government. Creating, controlling, or distributing drugs may be illegal, depending on the type of drug, amount of contraband, and the defendant’s intentions. There are three types of drug crimes:

  • Manufacturing/Creation
  • Possession/Control
  • Distribution/Trafficking

What Are Some Defenses to Drug Crimes?

The defenses that most commonly used successfully against charges of drug crimes include:

What Is Unwitting Possession?

Unwitting possession means that a person possessed drugs without knowing it. The classic example is a mail carrier who delivers a package containing drugs but is not guilty of possession if they did not know and had no way to know that the package contained drugs. Another common situation is borrowing a car where the owner stashed drugs.

Some states allow unwitting possession as a defense, some add the 'had no reason to know' element, but some don't allow it at all. The defendant usually has the burden of proving unwitting possession by a preponderance of the evidence.

How Is Illegal Search and Seizure a Defense to Drug Crimes?

The Constitution forbids the police from searching homes without warrants and automobiles without probable cause. To ensure that the police comply with these rules, courts can suppress evidence that was illegally obtained.

For example, suppose the police search a home without a warrant and find cocaine inside. A defense lawyer can ask the court to suppress the cocaine because the drugs were obtained without a warrant. If the defense is successful, then the police cannot use the cocaine as evidence during trial. If the jury doesn’t see the evidence, then the defense cannot be convicted of a drug crime.

What Are Examples of Police Abuse of Power?

Police abuse of power includes a variety of illegal methods used by law enforcement agents to prove a case. The most common abuses include unauthorized surveillance, planting evidence, and pressure tactics on witnesses or suspects. Be warned that the police ARE allowed to lie either in promising leniency or in using undercover agents.

What If I Have a Medical Marijuana Prescription?

This depends on which jurisdiction the defendant is in. Only twenty states and Washington D.C. permit citizens to possess marijuana for medical reasons. If the defendant is brought before a federal court or a court in a state which does not recognize medical marijuana, there is no medical marijuana defense.

Even in the states that do permit patients to possess marijuana for medical reasons, there are many restrictions:

  • This is an affirmative defense. This means the police arrest people first and courts ask questions later.
  • States have a limit as to how much marijuana a patient can possess. Marijuana possession over the limit is not protected.
  • This defense only applies to possession. If the patient is charged with distribution, the patient won’t be protected.
  • Most states require the patient be registered with the state medical marijuana program or hold a doctor’s note.

These restrictions do not make medical marijuana prescription useless as a defense to possession of a controlled substance. There are plenty of patients who are arrested by the police who can meet state requirements. Moreover, removing a marijuana possession charge is no small deal. Medical marijuana is a valid defense, but there should be additional defenses if the police find a way around it.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you or someone you know has been accused of a drug crime, consult a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney will be able to protect your rights from abuse by the police as well as defend you in the best way.