What Defense Strategies Are Commonly Used In Drug Related Cases?
Common Defense Strategies To Use In Drug Related Cases
With drug related cases, the first thing to look at is what has the state done? How much has the state gone to prove this, and your defenses can vary from constitutional defenses, and then there are fact defenses.
Constitutional defenses commonly seen is a search and seizure that is done wrong.
Maryland has a very interesting situation coming up with drug dogs and dog searches. Maryland has drug dogs which are universally trained to sniff out marijuana, and that is something that they have done for years. That is something that they have been very good and very effective at. There have been so many cases where somebody’s been pulled over, a drug dog has come in and noticed marijuana.
With the changes in the marijuana laws over the last couple of years, the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is a civil citation, and as a civil citation that is something that does not really give an officer authority to search a vehicle to investigate a civil citation.
Usually, in that situation a police officer comes in, the dog sniffs and alerts to something because not only do they alert to marijuana, they alert to cocaine, they alert to heroin and other drugs that they’re trained to do, but if the dog’s also trained to alert to marijuana, you have a very good constitutional case now for any drug dog search, because if they can’t prove that that drug dog is trained not to smell less than 10 grams of marijuana, then they are taking an overly broad search when they’re searching a car.
If a drug dog detects heroin for instance and you are in court, how can you prove that that drug dog may not have been detecting a civil citation substance of marijuana, which changes the whole aspect of the search. It doesn’t give them a constitutional right to search. And whether or not somebody’s pulled over, or how somebody is pulled over makes a difference as far as a constitutional search is concerned.
A lot of times, people are pulled over for bad reasons. Once, police were pulling people over because they had the back of their car filled with camping equipment, and they couldn’t look out the rear view mirror. There is actually nothing illegal about that. It’s something that may be a little bit of a danger, but it doesn’t given an officer probable cause to search the vehicle.
If they don’t have probable cause to search a vehicle and an officer finds something, that is evidence that can be suppressed based off the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution and also the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The state cannot use that evidence against you if it was obtained illegally. If the state has no evidence that they can use against you, a person is generally going to be found not guilty and walk free of that.
Those are the constitutional defenses, numerous fact defenses. Police have to prove that somebody has knowledge of what they have, depending on where something’s found and what the relation is to a person. A person may have a defense to say this doesn’t belong to me, this belongs to somebody else.
A person can also be charged for possessing somebody else’s contraband, and when that happens, you have a good defense and you can win at trial.
Ultimately, it comes down to what the police officers do and the state’s attorneys do and how good a job they do as far as investigating a crime, gathering evidence, prosecuting the crime, and following through with the court rules.
As a defense attorney, that gives many options to fight a drug case because you can fight it on constitutional grounds, you can fight it on factual grounds, you can fight it on grounds that the police did not do a good enough job, or if the state’s attorney makes a mistake somewhere in the trial you can take advantage of that.
Many cases have been won in all different methods. It starts out with their own facts, and depending on how somebody’s pulled over, what they say to the police, what the police have found, where it is found, those are the facts that you generally start out with and you have to deal with, and you have to work within that framework to find the best defense for somebody to get them the best outcome possible.
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