Virginia drug defense lawyer Jon Katz knows that federal drug agencies, physicians, and the criminal law have a stranglehold on what is and is not legal when it comes to drugs, drug manufacturing and dispensing, and drug use.
The federal and state governments annually pour billions of dollars into the failed generations-long drug war that stretch government budgets, jails and prisons to the breaking point, and make otherwise law-abiding citizens victims of the nation’s draconian drug laws, even for relaxing at home with a marijuana cigarette or snort of cocaine rather than opting for the legal drug option of beer or other alcohol.
With the madness of the politics of this drug war come the casualties of the almost countless victims caught in the war, not only those who have committed crimes of drug possession, distribution and manufacturing, but also innocent people caught in dragnet arrests and terrorized by police home searches often intentionally executed when household members are sleeping and less likely to react with violence to the search.
How can you protect yourself against the criminal drug laws? Unfortunately, if you are in a car with someone possessing drugs or other contraband, at a concert next to people smoking marijuana, or a housemate with someone possessing illegal drugs, you are yourself at risk of prosecution and conviction. In any event, here are important approaches to defending yourself from the outset against drug charges: Your car is a moving target allowing police to stop you under the pretext of an actual traffic law violation to investigate more serious law violations, including violations of the drug laws; so beware driving with defective equipment, violating the moving violation laws, and being in a car with anyone you do not know and trust. Remember your right to refuse to talk with the police and to refuse all searches. Beware that other occupants in a car might toss their contraband as far away from them as possible, and right into your actual or proverbial lap, whenever police stop a vehicle.
Remember that even if the police have a warrant to search your home, place of business or property, you have no obligation to assist their search. Beware admitting to police whether you own the subject real estate or personal property or which room you occupy, and beware showing police any safes or computers and divulging any lock combinations or computer passwords. Silence is golden when an actual or potential police suspect. Also, ask police if you are free to leave when they arrive to execute a search warrant. If you stay when free to leave, expect police to be observing whether you are nervous or are looking in the direction of possible contraband.
A key part for Jon Katz in defending against drug and other criminal charges is to challenge the legality of the search and seizure in the first place. Also critical is challenging whether the substance can be proven to be contraband and to be the substance that is claimed in the criminal charging document. Additionally, culpability for possessing (whether individual or joint possession) illegal drugs and other contraband requires proof that the defendant had knowledge, dominion, and control over the alleged contraband.
For prescription medicines, beware carrying the medicine outside of the container that it originally came in, and beware carrying the medicine without proof of your prescription. By the same token, if police find prescription drugs on you without the prescription proof and you remain silent at all times, that makes it all the harder for the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Beware mandatory minimum sentencing not only in drug cases but also in DWI cases and a whole host of other cases. Beware federal and state laws and court practices that result in no bail or astronomical bail pending sentencing.
Beware the often cat-and-mouse game involved in law enforcement efforts against allegedly illegal controlled substance analogues (for instance imitation drugs or substances that mimic unlawful drugs) as manufacturers of such substances make efforts to change the ingredients of such products to try to avoid convictions, with varying levels of success. Once again, the prosecution has the burden to prove all criminal cases beyond a reasonable doubt, and a whole host of defenses can be available against prosecutions for allegedly unlawful synthetic drugs.
Unless the drug is marijuana – with which plenty of people do not see as too harmful to society – beware that a large percentage of judges and jurors will not be sympathetic to drug crimes involving other Schedule I and II drugs. The key is to find a way to win in the first place, and to work hard to minimize sentencing exposure in the event of a drug conviction.
Jon Katz has defended hundreds of clients charged with drug offenses, since 1991, including cocaine (powder and crack), marijuana, LSD (acid), heroin, MDMA (ecstasy), oxycodone, xanax, Adderall, and PCP. For a confidential consultation, please call Jon’s staff at (703) 383-1100.
Virginia controlled substance schedules- Start here
– A federal controlled substance analogue conviction requires knowing its features or that it is a controlled substance
– Virginia criminal defense — More on search limits on police following a positive drug dog alert