Federal drug crimes are on the rise, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. As the organization has recently stated;
In 1987 drug arrests were 7.4% of the total of all arrests reported to the FBI; by 2007, drug arrests had risen to 13.0% of all arrests.
These numbers indicate that there is a need for society to learn more about what constitutes this sort of crime, how it is punished and the defenses that are most commonly used to defend those who have been arrested of these crimes. At this point in time, the federal government imposes the toughest sentencing on those convicted of drug crimes. The defenses that are used throughout various states within the US, however, tend to be fairly similar and they fall into different categories. The experts of Valentine’s Day on Trial explain;
Some defenses challenge the stated facts, testimony or evidence in the case; others target procedural errors, often search and seizure violations; and some defendants challenge drug possession charges on the basis of an affirmative defense, such as the right to use medical marijuana in some states.
Legal experts are usually the individuals who will analyze the case and determine which defense will suit their clients best, although in many cases, individuals will benefit from understanding their rights and how these can contribute to their defense.
Legal Vs Illegal Drugs
Before a crime can be tried, one of the very first questions that need to be answered by legal professionals is whether the drug is legal or not. Just because someone is arrested for possession of marijuana, for instance, this doesn’t mean that this will automatically constitute a federal crime; far from it, in fact, because this will depend greatly on the context of the situation. In many cases, the legality of the drug will depend entirely on how the drug is being used, as well as by whom. The legal experts of Nolo.com explain;
For example, amphetamines are used to treat attention deficit disorder, barbiturates help treat anxiety, and marijuana can help alleviate cancer-induced nausea. But un-prescribed and unsupervised use of these substances (and many others) is thought to present a danger to individuals and to society in general.
While there are many individuals who claim that drug abuse is actually a victimless crime, others believe that it contributes to crime on a national, and even a global level, and it is for this reason that it should be punishable to the full extent of the law. At this point in time, this is the stance taken by the federal government.
Unlawful search or seizure happens to be one of the most common defenses of federal drug crimes. In instances where drugs are considered to be in plain view, particularly in such instances as when they are on a car seat, or on the dashboard, they can be seized without consent of the individual. In those cases where the drugs are kept in the trunk of a vehicle, on the other hand, the officer will need permission or a warrant in order to search and seize the drugs. In those cases where they were seized illegally, they will not be able to be entered into evidence. It is quite common for these sorts of trials to be dismissed when this occurs.
Belonging To Someone Else
Another one that is often used as a defense against a federal crime is the one where the defendant will claim the drugs were not his. In these instances, the drugs could be found in someone’s vehicle or home, but if they do not belong to the owner, this could be used as a defense. The experts of Find Law state;
A skilled defense attorney will pressure prosecutors to prove that the joint found in the car actually belonged to his or her client and not one of the other three passengers.
It is up to the prosecutor to prove that the individual is guilty, not the other way around, and this means that in those cases where there is enough doubt, this could prove to be a strong defense.
Before an individual can be prosecuted, it is important that law enforcement officials are able to prove that they actually have drugs in hand. Just because something appears like LSD or cocaine, this doesn’t mean that this is indeed the case. For this reason, the professionals will need to have the drugs analyzed to prove that they are dealing with an illegal substance.
Before the trial can proceed, it is also important that law enforcement officials actually produce the drugs that have elicited the trial. There are many instances in the past where prosecutors have actually lost the drugs and so individuals should never assume that the evidence still exists.
While most law enforcement officials are upstanding members of society, there have been those who have been found to plant drugs where these substances couldn’t be found, and so this is another defense that can be used in court. This sort of accusation is taken very seriously, however, and an individual will make sure that they can convince the judge to actually have the officer’s complaint file released so that this can be reviewed by the legal representation of the client. Those listed in the file will then be interviewed to determine whether a pattern of behavior can be established.
Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement official actually induces a suspect to commit a crime that he might not have wanted or been able to commit in the first place. It should also be noted that entrapment tends to occur commonly in those instances where the state, not the individual, has procured the drugs that are being utilized as evidence.
While these are common defenses used in federal drug cases, each case is unique and will need to be treated as such. For this reason, it is up to each individual to ensure that he has a thorough understanding of the options before making a decision one way or another.