If you have been charged with a drug offense in Washington, it is imperative you speak with an attorney about all your options. There are a number of possible drug crime defenses. However, those available to you and those that will be most helpful will depend on the exact facts of your case. A skilled drug defense lawyer will listen to your story, review every aspect of your case, and determine the strongest possible defenses.
Challenging a Search or Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. It states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This amendment means there are a number of limitations on the police in regard to when and how they can search your person, home, vehicle, and other places you control. In general, the police need a warrant, based on probable cause, to conduct a search and seize any of your property. There are exceptions to the warrant requirement. The police may search an area if illegal drugs are in “plain view.” They may search an area if they enter it due to an emergency, such as hearing screaming. Law enforcement officers may also search an area if you give them consent to do so.
Under RCW 69.50, drug crimes in Washington are considered Violations of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act (VUCSA). Many of these drug charges arise because police officers violate your Fourth Amendment rights. Police officers may conduct a search of your person, vehicle, or home without permission, without a warrant, or without an exception to a warrant. For instance, you may have been pulled over for speeding. The police may have asked you to step out of the vehicle, and then without asking for consent or waiting for a warrant, they went through the vehicle, glove compartment, and trunk.
If the police conduct a search that you did not consent to and without a warrant, call an attorney immediately. Your lawyer can argue that anything found during an illegal search should not be entered into evidence. Your attorney will motion the court to suppress all unlawfully obtained materials and if possible to dismiss your case.
Challenging Your Possession of the Drugs
There are two types of possession: actual and constructive. Actual possession of drugs entails the police finding drugs on your person, such as in your pocket or bag. Usually, no one else has access to the drugs when you have actual possession.
Constructive possession occurs when you and other individuals have knowledge and access to the drugs. For example, you are considered to have constructive possession if illicit substances were found in a cabinet in your apartment. You may also be accused of constructive possession if the drugs were found in a friend’s vehicle, which you were riding in at the time.
Depending on the facts of your case, your attorney may argue that you had neither actual nor constructive possession of the drugs in question. Proximity to drugs is not enough. The prosecution must prove you knew about the drugs, had control over them, and knew they were illegal.
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Challenging Your Knowledge of the Drugs
When the police find illegal drugs in a place that you own or have control over, such as your vehicle, office, or home, drug charges may result. However, other people may have regular access to these places. You may give friends and family members rides or let them borrow your car. You may have a number of employees or clients who visit your office. Another person may have a spare key to your house or apartment, you may have roommates, or you may have guests over on a consistent basis. All of these individuals could have left behind drugs without your knowledge.
If illicit substances are found in a friend’s vehicle or apartment and the police claim you had knowledge of them, you can be charged with constructive possession. By working with a knowledgeable drug crime attorney, you may be able to establish that you were unaware of their presence. As a result, the prosecution will not be able to confirm possession.
Proving the Drugs Were Planted
There are situations in which a police officer may plant drugs at a scene or claims to have found drugs on your person. Evidence of such an abuse may come from police body cameras, police vehicle dashboard cameras, other surveillance cameras, or eyewitnesses. If there is any evidence to support this, your attorney will be aggressive in proving another person framed you for a drug offense and seek to have the charges dismissed.
Proving the Substance Was Not an Illegal Drug
You may have been arrested for a substance that appeared to be a drug. It may have even tested positive on a portable test kit, many of which are known to be unreliable or performed by officers, who are not properly trained. However, upon an official or independent analysis, you may learn that the substance was not an illegal drug.
If there is evidence that you were charged with a drug offense for a material that is not a controlled substance, your attorney will fight for your charges to be dropped.
Proving You Legally Possessed the Drug
Sometimes, people face criminal charges for substances that they were actually lawfully in possession of. For instance, if you were charged with a marijuana offense in Washington, your lawyer will carefully analyze the facts of your case regarding the state’s cannabis regulations. If you had a controlled substance that was also a prescription medication, your lawyer may obtain a copy of your valid prescription to provide to the court. If your attorney can establish that you were lawfully in possession of the controlled substance, they can fight for a dismissal.
Contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC Today
Some defense strategies will focus on having your case dismissed, which is typically the best possible outcome for criminal charges. Your lawyer may also utilize defenses that are likely to prove your innocence at trial or at least minimize the consequences of a conviction. For example, if your lawyer successfully argues that you were unaware of the drugs or they were not yours, you may be convicted and only sentenced to a minimal punishment.
To discuss your drug crime defense options, contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC at (253) 733-2093 to schedule an appointment.