Drug charges are rarely straightforward. If you’ve been accused of drug possession, drug trafficking, or a related crime, you’ll need to hire a lawyer as soon as possible, since you may have difficulty understanding exactly what you’re being charged with – and what that means for your future.
Why are drug charges so complicated and difficult to deal with? And what steps can you take to make things easier on yourself?
Step One: Talk to a Lawyer
A criminal defense lawyer will help you in many ways. For starters, your lawyer is going to serve as your professional advisor, helping you understand the exact nature of the charges being brought against you as well as the options you have to choose from.
They can also provide you with advice and guidance on what to do next; in some cases, it may be better to plead guilty and push for lighter sentencing, while in other cases, it may pay to go to court and battle things out. You won’t have a good understanding of what’s best for you unless you have professional guidance on your side.
Lawyers are also there to make sure you’re treated fairly upon arrest. Without a lawyer present, police officers may pressure you to give a false confession. They may lie to you. They may even break the law in an attempt to get your cooperation. A lawyer will be there to step in to make sure this type of thing doesn’t happen.
On top of that, your lawyer is going to be doing most of the hard work on your behalf, such as filling out paperwork, representing you in trial, and persuading others via negotiation.
The Complexities of Drug Charges
So why are drug charges so complicated in the first place?
- Changing laws and statutes. For starters, laws and statutes around drugs change frequently. Drugs are sometimes added or dropped in the list of scheduled substances and protocols for processing drug charges on a regular basis. A person being charged with this specific crime in 2005 probably isn’t going to be in the same situation as a person charged with the same crime in 2022.
- State by state variations. Laws also vary by state. Getting caught with illegal drugs in California isn’t the same as being caught with those same illegal drugs in Alabama.
- Poor understanding of drugs. Regulatory bodies sometimes have a poor understanding of what drugs are and how they work, leading to vague and incomplete definitions that make drug charges unnecessarily complicated.
- Definitions and fringe cases. Certain ambiguities make definitions of drugs difficult. For example, marijuana may be illegal in your area, but the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp-derived products legal as long as they contain only a trace amount of delta-9 THC – so what happens if your product is right on the threshold?
- Secondary charges. Secondary charges, like possession of drug paraphernalia, can instantly make your case more complicated. If you have large quantities of drugs, if you were caught selling drugs, if you crossed state lines, or if you committed other offenses like robbery, you might find yourself in a very complicated situation.
Actionable Steps You Can Take
These are some actual steps you can take to mitigate the harm of complex drug charges.
- Don’t talk. For the most part, you should never speak to the police. You have the right to remain silent, so you might as well use it. As the Miranda Rights suggest, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, so any information you give the police represents a potential liability. Just stay quiet until your lawyer advises you to speak.
- Get a lawyer ASAP. In line with this, get a lawyer as soon as possible. No matter how much you think you understand your current situation or about drug laws, your lawyer will know more.
- Educate yourself. Don’t just nod along with whatever your lawyer says. It’s important to educate yourself as well. Work to understand what charges are being pressed against you, what the laws actually say, and what the evidence against you is.
- Seek the best outcome for your situation. It’s hard to say what the “right” thing to do is when you’re facing drug charges since every situation is so different. You should always be attempting to seek the best outcome for your specific situation, whether that’s getting the charges dropped or just accepting a plea deal.
Drug charges are more complicated than most people think, and there’s no indication that they’re going to get simpler in the near future. It’s important to stay educated, avoid sabotaging yourself and seek the advice and support of professionals in this area of criminal law.
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