Discover Florida’s Defenses To Drug Possession Charges!
Many Floridians find themselves charged with drug crimes each year. Sometimes, through errors or mistakes, innocent people find themselves on the business end of a serious drug charge. However, not all is lost, as a good attorney can help bring those mistakes to light and work towards an acquittal on drug possession charges. Here are a few of the defenses Florida attorneys utilize the most when their clients are charged with possessing drugs in Florida.
Unlawful Search And Seizure
When law enforcement collects evidence to be used at trial, they must follow certain procedures that are put in place to protect the rights of the people with whom they come in contact. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Supreme Court cases interpreting it have established that law enforcement must get permission from a magistrate on a warrant identifying specific pieces of evidence they hope to obtain before they may carry out a legal search.
Typically, in order to legally search a residence, law enforcement must have a valid warrant. The warrant is necessary for both inside the house and in its immediate vicinity, known as its curtilage.
One exception to this rule is if the drugs are in “plain view” at the time law enforcement discovers them, such as on the seat of a car during a traffic stop. In this case, no warrant is needed and the illegal drugs are able to be used as evidence of drug possession.
If the evidence of drug possession is gathered in a way that violates the Fourth Amendment, courts are bound to exclude that evidence from trial, as well as any additional evidence they find as a result of the now-excluded evidence. Oftentimes excluding evidence in a drug case is so damaging to the case that prosecutors choose to drop the charges rather than risk an acquittal.
Drugs Don’t Belong To You
Although illegal drugs used in prosecutions are typically found in the physical vicinity or under the control of a defendant, that alone does not necessarily mean those drugs belong to that person. Drug possession evidence can frequently be circumstantial, sometimes highly so.
In this case, the defense does not need to prove who the illegal drugs belong to, it must only create reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge or jury as to whether those drugs belonged to the defendant. An experienced attorney may be able to win an acquittal if he or she makes such an argument in a drug possession case.
Chain Of Custody
Law enforcement in Florida has procedures by which it handles and catalogs evidence in drug possession trials. Upon collecting the evidence, officers must seal it and mark it before turning it in at an evidence room. However, if there is an error or gap in this chain of custody, the evidence may have been available for tampering, or even switched with evidence from some other case.
A competent defense attorney typically need only show that there may have been an opportunity for the evidence to be tampered with to create reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge or jury and subject that evidence to exclusion.