Why You Need A Michigan Drug Crime Lawyer In Your Corner
If you have been charged with a drug offense in Michigan, you could face serious consequences. Because the consequences of a drug conviction are so significant, it is crucial that you contact a skilled Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. George Law consists of top-notch Michigan criminal defense lawyers with solid track records. We are prepared to take on the prosecutor’s case against you. George Law is dedicated to helping clients get the best resolutions to their criminal charges. We will carefully evaluate your circumstances and advise you on the best way to proceed. Reach out to a George Law criminal defense attorney by calling (248) 470-4300 or contacting us online.
The War On Drugs
The most intense part of the War on Drugs is over. Gone are the days when authorities very aggressively enforced harsh laws. Today, many people consider drug abuse a health and safety problem instead of a criminal law problem. And lawmakers have rolled back many stringent “mandatory minimums” and other strict enforcement laws. Additionally, former President Barack Obama pardoned thousands of people who were arrested and sentenced under these laws.
However, the War on Drugs is not over. In 2020, authorities arrested over one million people for drug violations. Almost 90 percent of these arrests were for possession of a controlled substance. Marijuana, prescription pain pills, and prescription antidepressants or muscle relaxers top the list of PCS (Possession of a Controlled Substance) offenses.
Yes, we know that marijuana is now legal in Michigan for most purposes. But this law was not made to be retroactive, meaning that many older Possession of Marijuana (POM) cases are still working through the criminal justice process.
Authorities usually emphasize drug possession arrests because, for some reason, they think these offenses are easy to prove in court. But as outlined below, these infractions have many moving parts. So, a Detroit criminal attorney has several opportunities to help you to resolve them successfully. This resolution could be a not-guilty verdict at trial, a pretrial dismissal of charges, or a plea to a lesser-included offense.
Produce The Substance In Court
An officer’s testimony that a defendant had illegal drugs is insufficient. The Constitution requires the state to produce the substance in court.
In a few cases, substance production involves a search warrant. These warrants must be based on probable cause. The uncorroborated word of a paid informant is usually not probable cause.
However, very few drug possession arrests involve search warrants. Things happen so quickly that officers do not take the time to obtain a warrant. Traffic stops and responses to disturbance calls are the most common PCS scenarios. A recognized search warrant exception must normally apply to introduce the substance into court evidence in these situations. Common ones include:
Property owners, or apparent property owners, may affirmatively give voluntary consent to search their belongings. An apparent owner is someone like a driver who does not legally own the vehicle. Affirmative and voluntary consent are usually the two most difficult items to prove. A remark like “I guess I can’t stop you from searching my house” is assent instead of consent. Furthermore, if officers threatened to get a warrant, the consent was arguably coerced as opposed to voluntary.
Perhaps the most common search warrant exception allows officers to seize contraband that they see in plain view. This exception only applies if officers were legally at that place at that time. So, the initial stop’s legality, or illegality, is important in plain view cases. Partial plain view seizures, such as a gun’s handle protruding from under a car’s seat, are in a gray area.
The two exceptions discussed above usually come up in a vehicle search context. The exigent circumstances exception often involves a disturbance call response. If officers reasonably believe someone is in trouble, they may conduct a security sweep inside a building, even if they do not have a warrant to enter it. While inside, they may seize any contraband they find in plain view, as outlined above.
Prosecutors cannot create search warrant exceptions ex nihilo (out of nothing). Only the recognized exceptions are available. Additionally, they cannot work backward. Prosecutors cannot argue that the search must have been reasonable since an officer found contraband. That’s not the way it works.
Prove The Substance Was Illegal
This element is not as straightforward as it seems. For example, in 2019, authorities in Florida charged a man with possession of heroin. Scientific tests proved the “heroin” was laundry detergent.
Unfortunately, this incident was far from unique. Officers invariably testify that a substance “field-tested” positive as heroin, Oxycontin, Xanax, or some illicit substance. But these unscientific tests are only preliminary determinations. They are usually based on the adage that if it looks like a duck and swims like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
Additionally, the controlled substances list is not set in stone. Lawmakers and bureaucrats often add or delete items. Synthetic marijuana is a good illustration. Frequently, scientists are ahead of lawmakers. So, a substance might not have been on the list at the time of the arrest.
Establish Possession: “Knowingly And Intentionally” Requirement
In the everyday realm, possession is synonymous with proximity. I possess my TV remote, even if it is on the other side of the living room. But the criminal law realm is different. Prosecutors must also establish knowledge and intent, which in this context usually means control. And they must establish these elements beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s a very high standard of proof.
Assume Ellen is at a house party where people are using illegal drugs. The party gets loud, and the cops show up. During a security sweep of the premises, they find some heroin. More than likely, officers will arrest everyone in the house for PCS. But it will be very difficult to prove that Ellen knew about the drugs and exercised control over them.
Or assume Ellen wisely left the party when it got loud. She got a ride with some people she didn’t know well. Officers pulled over the driver, the driver consented to a search, and officers found illegal prescription pain pills in the glove compartment. Once again, prosecutors would be hard-pressed to connect Ellen with the drugs in the glove compartment, especially if the glove compartment was locked or she was in the back seat, where she didn’t have easy access to it.
Drug Possession Lawyer
Keep in mind that if convicted on your drug possession charge, you could be placed behind bars for years and punished in many additional ways. By consulting with an experienced criminal lawyer, you can better understand your options and possible defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Detroit, contact George Law. We routinely handle matters in Wayne County and nearby jurisdictions.