Possession of a controlled substance can be defined as a crime that occurs when a person is in actual or constructive possession of a drug or some other substance that is deemed to be illegal under federal and state laws.
In general, a controlled substance is usually some sort of drug that poses a serious risk or threat to a person’s health and wellbeing, such as drug addiction or abuse. Some examples of a controlled substance include heroin, cocaine, PCP, and methamphetamine.
A defendant who is charged with possession of a controlled substance while also in possession of a firearm can face very serious legal penalties. This likely means that the defendant was carrying drugs and a gun when they were arrested.
The reason why this crime is considered to be much more serious than simple possession of a controlled substance is because it may imply that the defendant was attempting to commit a further drug crime like drug trafficking or distribution.
However, this will depend on the quantity of drugs that a defendant was in possession of at the time of the arrest, whether the defendant has a criminal record, and/or the requirements prescribed by the relevant federal or state laws. A defendant who has been charged with this crime under federal law will most likely have to serve a prison sentence and pay hefty criminal fines if they are convicted.
Therefore, if you are currently facing charges for possession of a controlled substance while armed, then it is strongly recommended that you speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area as soon as possible. A qualified criminal defense attorney will be able to inform you of the consequences you may be facing, can find out whether there are any defenses you can raise against such charges, and can discuss the best way to proceed with your case.
What Are the Penalties for Possession While Armed?
The penalties that a defendant may face for possession of a controlled substance while armed can be rather severe since this is considered to be a very serious criminal offense. In most instances, possession while armed will be charged as a felony offense. Thus, the penalties that a convicted defendant can receive will likely involve serving some amount of time in a state prison facility and paying criminal fines of up to $10,000 or more.
While state criminal laws will often vary in their requirements and punishments for this particular offense, a defendant may face certain legal penalties under federal firearms laws. According to federal firearms laws, some legal penalties that a defendant who is charged and convicted of drug possession while armed can receive may include the following:
- Up to an 87-month prison sentence if the defendant has a criminal record that includes a conviction for drug trafficking or a violent crime;
- A mandatory minimum of 15 years imprisonment if the defendant is found to be a career criminal;
- A term of no less than 5 years imprisonment in a standard case for carrying a firearm while in possession of enough drugs to find for drug distribution or trafficking; and
- Monetary criminal fines of up to a maximum of $250,000.
Are There Any Defenses to Possession of a Controlled Substance While Armed?
There may be several legal defenses available to a defendant who has been charged with possession of a controlled substance while armed. Some examples of defenses that a defendant might be able to raise against such charges may include the following:
- Proving that the controlled substance which the defendant was in possession of when they were arrested is not considered a controlled substance under the law;
- Submitting evidence that law enforcement officers discovered the drugs and firearm after conducting an illegal search of the defendant’s person or property;
- Claiming that the defendant did not have a firearm when they were in possession and arrested for possession of a controlled substance, or that the object the defendant was carrying when they were arrested was not an actual firearm;
- Raising the fact that the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence or has failed to satisfy the burden of proof required for the defendant to be convicted of the charges; and
- Demonstrating that the firearm was not loaded when the defendant was arrested for possession of a controlled substance (note that this defense is not available in every state).
In addition, certain states have laws that permit a defendant to request that a court issue an alternative sentencing option as punishment. An alternative sentencing option may include performing community service work, checking oneself into a rehabilitation center, or serving a prison sentence under house arrest, as opposed to in a state or county jail facility. While not exactly a defense, these options can serve to reduce the severity of the punishment.
Whether or not an alternative sentencing option will be available to a defendant will depend on a number of different factors, such as:
- The nature of the crime;
- The facts or circumstances surrounding an individual case;
- The criminal history of a particular defendant; and
- The laws adopted by the state in which the defendant was convicted.
These same factors can also be applied when determining whether a defendant will face federal gun and drugs charges. For example, a defendant will likely be charged with commission of a felony crime if the prosecutor can prove they intended to distribute, sell, or transport the drugs that were in their possession beyond a reasonable doubt. The type and quantity of drugs or controlled substances can also affect the level of offense with which a defendant is charged.
A defendant may also face felony gun and drugs charges if they were arrested for possession of a controlled substance while armed and are considered to be a repeat offender. The reason for this is because persons who have previously served time in prison are generally prohibited from owning, possessing, or using firearms.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Controlled Substance Charges?
Charges involving controlled substances can lead to very serious legal consequences if a person gets convicted. This is especially true in cases where the person was carrying a firearm or another type of weapon when they were arrested on controlled substance charges.
A person who is charged with the crime of possession of a controlled substance while armed and is convicted will likely face penalties reserved for a felony offense, such as prison and criminal fines.
Thus, if you have been arrested and are currently facing charges for a controlled substance offense, then it may be in your best interest to consult a local drug lawyer for further legal advice. A lawyer who has experience in handling drug-related cases can advise you of your legal rights and options as provided by the criminal laws in your particular jurisdiction.
In addition, your lawyer will be able to ensure that your rights as a criminal defendant are protected by providing legal representation in criminal court and/or at any other legal proceedings associated with your case like motion hearings, appeals, or negotiations for a plea deal. Your lawyer will also be able to conduct legal research on whether there are any defenses you can raise against your controlled substance charges.
Finally, if you need assistance with an appeal, would like to request an alternative sentencing option, or simply have questions about controlled substance charges and your case, your lawyer will be able to perform all of these legal tasks on your behalf as well.