The penalties for drug possession in North Carolina are severe. Many of our clients want to fight the charges, realizing that a criminal conviction will carry negative collateral consequences long into the future. To fight a drug charge, however, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can carefully analyze your case and raise legitimate defenses, such as the following.
Argue the Search was Unconstitutional
The Fourth Amendment protects against “unreasonable” searches and seizures. Generally, police need a search warrant to search your home, which must be supported by probable cause. Since getting a search warrant isn’t always practicable, police can also search you on the street if they have probable cause that you have or are about to participate in a crime.
Often, the police do not have probable cause, which must be more than a hunch or guess. Instead, officers routinely search people based solely on suspicions and little else, which makes the search illegal. You can suppress any drugs found in an illegal search, which will prevent the prosecutor from introducing them into evidence.
Of course, there are some exceptions to the warrant requirement. If the drugs are in plain view, sitting on your passenger seat, then the police can seize them. Police can also enter your home if they are in hot pursuit. Your lawyer can review the circumstances surrounding the search and seizure to make sure the police complied with your constitutional rights.
Argue You Did Not Possess the Drugs According to the Statute
To be convicted under the law, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You possessed the drugs.
- You had knowledge of the possession and of the illegal character of the item possessed.
In practice, this means it is not enough for a prosecutor to show that you had drugs in your pocket or in a package you were holding. Instead, the state needs to show you knew you were possessing drugs. For example, you might have put on a friend’s jacket when you went out in the evening. If drugs are in the pocket, you can argue that you did not know they were there.
Argue that the Substance You were Caught with Are Not Drugs
The state needs to prove you possessed an illegal substance. Frequently, they will send the drugs to a lab for analysis, and test results will be used to show you possessed illegal drugs. Fortunately, there are a couple ways you can challenge this lab analysis. For example, you might be able to point to gaps in the chain of custody, which raises doubt that the lab actually tested the substance in your possession. Alternately, you might challenge the quality of the testing.
Speak with a North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one has been arrested for drug possession, you need to begin building your defense immediately. At Tarlton & Polk, our lawyers are former prosecutors who understand how the state tries these cases and can pinpoint weaknesses in the state’s evidence. To schedule your free consultation, please call 919-827-4199.