Defenses to Drug Charges

Phoenix Lawyer for Narcotics Offenses

Arizona treats drug crimes seriously. What must be proven to establish a charge depends on the particular crime and the controlled substance involved. If you have been charged with a drug crime, do not assume that charges will necessarily lead to a conviction. To understand the potential defenses to any drug charges you’re facing, you can retain knowledgeable legal representation. James E. Novak is a seasoned Phoenix drug crime attorney and former prosecutor who may be able to help you.

Defenses to Drug Charges

At trial, the prosecutor must establish each element of the drug crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It may be possible to defend against the charges by attacking one or more elements. For example, in a drug possession case, the government must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly possessed an illegal drug. To show that you did not knowingly possesses the illegal drug, a defense attorney may be able to establish that you did not know you were in possession of drugs or that the drugs were in a common area shared by others in your residence. If the police found the drugs in your car near the passenger areas or in your passenger’s clothing or belongings, you may be able to argue that the illegal drugs were not yours and that you did not know your passenger possessed illegal drugs.

Procedural Defenses

Besides substantive defense to a drug offense, a defendant may also have procedural defenses rooted in the Constitution. So, if the police violated your constitutional rights while searching for the drugs or drug activity, you may be able to bring a motion to suppress the evidence. For example, when the police unlawfully stop a car and search the trunk without probable cause, a criminal defense lawyer could file a motion to suppress any illegal drugs found in the trunk because the search and seizure was unreasonable and in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Alternatively, if the police fail to read you your Miranda rights before a custodial interrogation, you may be able to get any statements you made during the interrogation suppressed at trial.

Defending a person charged with a drug crime requires meticulous attention to how the police conducted the arrest, whether any protocols were violated when the police collected evidence, whether the police maintained the chain of custody of the evidence, and whether the laboratory that handled any of the samples did so appropriately.

Other Defenses

In some cases, a defendant may be able to argue that police entrapment occurred. Under Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-206, entrapment is an affirmative defense to a criminal charge. In order to raise this defense to a drug charge, you need to admit the elements of the drug crime and show by clear and convincing evidence: (1) law enforcement officers or their agents initiated the idea of committing the drug crime, (2) the officers or agents urged you to perpetrate the drug crime, and (3) you weren’t predisposed to perpetrate a drug crime before being urged to do so by the officers or agents. You may not be able to establish entrapment if you were predisposed to commit the offense and the officers or agents only provided you with an opportunity to do so, or if the officers simply used a ruse or hid their identity. The officers’ and agents’ actions can be considered to determine whether you established entrapment.

In other situations, a defense attorney may be able to challenge the credibility of a confidential informant who provided information about the drugs. Often police officers rely on confidential informants to find drug traffickers. To obtain a search warrant from the judge, the officers must include information from their informants in warrant applications. If an officer submitted an affidavit that contained statements from a confidential informant that the officer knew to be unreliable, evidence from the search may be suppressed.

Retain an Experienced Drug Crime Attorney in Phoenix

If you are facing drug charges, you can discuss your circumstances with a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. Mr. Novak defends clients who face drug possession charges in the Phoenix area, including in Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale, and throughout Maricopa County. Call him at (480) 413-1499 or contact him through our online form.

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