Drug possession is the most commonly-charged drug crime in North Carolina. Possession may be a misdemanor or a felony, largely depending on the amount and type of controlled substances involved. Moreover, aggressive prosecutors often use any shred of circumstantial evidence to enhance charges to distribution. The penalties are much higher in these cases.
Based on the nature of the criminal charges and the surrounding circumstances of the arrest, the defendant may have a wide variety of defenses to charges of drug possession. While some defenses challenge the stated facts and testimony or evidence in the case, others aim at procedural errors made by law enforcement officers.
The following are the most common defenses to drug possession charges:
- Unlawful search and seizure – The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to due process of law, including protection from illegal search and seizure procedures prior to an arrest. If evidence was unlawfully obtained, it cannot be submitted for trial.
- The drugs belong to another person – Another common defense is claiming you didn’t commit the crime. With regard to drug possession charges, you can claim that the drugs aren’t yours (lack of possession) or you had no idea they were in your vehicle or home (unwitting possession).
- Crime lab analysis – Different types of non-narcotic substances can resemble the appearance of drugs. For instance, a white powder may look like cocaine or crack. The state needs to provide proof that the substance found is illegal, often through a professional laboratory analysis. However, if the crime lab makes an error in its analysis or the substance is not an illegal narcotic, then the case against you may be dismissed.
- Missing drugs – If the evidence is lost during the course of your trial, it may weaken the prosecution’s case. This typically occurs when evidence is transferred from one place to another during the course of the hearings.
- Entrapment – While police are allowed to conduct sting operations, illegal entrapment happens when an officer or an informant of the police baits someone into committing a crime they would otherwise not have committed.