Drug Possession Defenses in Virginia | What to Know

Read on to learn more about the various drug possession defenses that can be used in Virginia and reach out to our skilled Richmond drug crime attorney.

What are the different kinds of drug possession defenses that can be used in Virginia?

Unlawful Search and Seizure

Recognize that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides citizens protection from the government. Under only specific circumstances is it legal for authorities to search a person’s body or property. Search and seizure challenges occur frequently in drug possession defense cases.

Illicit drugs discovered in “plain view,” may be seized and used as proof in a drug case. An example of plain view might be drugs or drug paraphernalia on a car’s dashboard while an officer conducts a legal traffic stop. Another instance would be a marijuana field that is visible from a plane’s point of view.

Keep in mind the possibility that an officer pries open a car’s trunk, without permission, and finds drugs. Or, if a low-flying drone is flown over a precise location and photographs a hidden marijuana field. These are a few examples of searches that would be illegal without a search warrant.

If authorities find evidence via illegal methods, the court will exclude that proof at trial. Because the evidence found in an illegal search is often hugely essential to the prosecution’s case, the government will often drop its case if police violated your Fourth Amendment rights.

Drugs Belong to Someone Else

Criminal defendants facing drug charges often want to claim that the drugs do not belong to them, or that they had no idea the drugs were in their possession. But, this might not as strong of an argument as you might think.

Police do not necessarily have to find drugs on your body or directly in your possession in order for you to be convicted on drug possession charges. Instead, prosecutors must usually only show that you had control of or access to the drugs.

At trial, a defense attorney might argue that there is a reasonable doubt that you knew about the drugs. However, this can be difficult if, for example, a passenger in your car was using drugs just prior to or at the time of your arrest. That is why it is a good idea to always speak to a criminal defense lawyer before you make any claims or arguments to the police.

Chain of Custody Problems

Another drug possession defense is that the drugs are missing. Once drugs are seized during an arrest or upon execution of a search warrant, police typically secure them in an evidence room or locker. At trial, a defense attorney can question whether the drugs offered as evidence are in fact the ones taken from the defendant (and not from a different case).

This is usually referred to as an attack on the chain of custody. Other chains of custody attacks involve the accusation that one of the officers who handled the drugs throughout the course of an investigation did so improperly. The possibility that such a tactic will succeed relies on how many officers handled the drugs, and how well the police create and keep records of such activity.

Contact Our Firm

Led by Attorney James A. Bullard Jr., we handle various criminal and traffic cases, including reckless driving tickets, DUIs, violent crimes, drug crimes, and so much more. Contact James A. Bullard Jr. P.C. today to get started on your defense.

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