Drug possession is a serious criminal offense and you stand to get expensive fines and years in prison if found guilty of possessing narcotics. Since this is the case, it is important to be aware of the things that you should remember and practice when you are charged with this offense especially if you are not guilty of illegal drug possession. One wrong move can be interpreted as a sign of guilt and make the judge throw you in jail for several years.
I had a conversation with R.J. Manuelian, a leading criminal attorney in Los Angeles, about this very topic.
“The law is fair and if you are not guilty, is likely to come out in your favor,” stated Manuelian. “But even so it is best to know what to do in this circumstance so as not to risk making matters worse.”
Here are a few points to remember when you find yourself facing illegal drug possession:
- A drug possession arrest can be done with or without a warrant. This means that even without a court ordered arrest, police can place you into custody when they catch you in the act of committing the offense or if they have probable cause that you have either committed or about to commit an offense.
- You are in no obligation to provide any information other than identifying information until you are arrested. Provide your correct legal name and exercise your right to remain silent and your right against self-incrimination. It is best to wait until you have your legal counsel with you before giving out any information as this may be used against you when your case is on trial. “No matter how long the police question you, you have the right to remain silent until you have been lawfully arrested and after you have spoken to your lawyer,” advised Manuelian.
- Throughout the procedure, you should respect the authority of the police and remain calm. However, you may respectfully decline a search of your person as well as your possessions. The police cannot proceed with the search without your informed consent. If you have been pulled over, the police can only inspect what is in plain view and cannot enter the vehicle to search. If they have probable grounds to search, they will then have to request for one.
- Once arrested, the police may either bring you to the station or issue an appearance notice for you. This will require you to go to the police station twice to have you photograph and fingerprints taken and to appear in a local courthouse where your case will be tried. You HAVE to attend both days on the appearance notice that was issued and have your lawyer accompany you on both occasions. Failure to do so will result to charges for Failure to Appear and a warrant of arrest will automatically be issued for you.
The penalties for possession of illegal drugs vary from state to state. But generally the extent of your penalty depends on any history of drug possession, the amount of drugs that were confiscated in your possession, and the type of drug that you possess. Drug possession penalties are lighter compared to drug distribution and manufacturing. Penalties can range from paying fines, being ordered to go to rehabilitation, community service, or serving time in prison. Whenever charged with drug possession, it is important to have a criminal defense attorney to guide you throughout the procedure.