The federal government has enacted laws that prohibit manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture any of the listed drugs on the Controlled Substance Schedules. The Controlled Substance Schedule rates substances from schedule I to schedule V, with schedule I carrying the harshest penalties. A substance is considered to be schedule I if it has a high potential for abuse, no current medicinal use, and there is no accepted safety for use of the substance under medical supervision. Methamphetamine is an example of a schedule I substance.
Most drug-related crimes are prosecuted in State courts as simple possession or possession with intent to deliver. However, certain operations get large enough to warrant attention from the federal government. Once the federal government has become involved, the case gets more serious with harsher penalties and more extensive investigative tactics.
To obtain a conviction, the government will have to prove the defendant knowingly and intentionally possessed the illegal contraband, or conspired to do so, and the contraband was obtained within the confines of the United States Constitution. Defenses are normally built under the Fourth Amendment or challenging the knowledge element.
4th Amendment Rights
Most drug possession cases involve a search and/or seizure of the defendant. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees that no person shall be subject to unreasonable searches or seizures at the hands of the government. A defendant may allege law enforcement subjected the defendant to an unreasonable search to obtain the contraband at issue. This challenge is perfected by filing a motion to suppress in the district court, and conducting a hearing on the Fourth Amendment issue. If the district court agrees law enforcement acted unreasonably when obtaining the contraband, the contraband will be suppressed. This means the contraband is inadmissible at trial. The government is required to enter the contraband into evidence to meet the elements of most drug offenses. An affirmative ruling on a motion to suppress, preventing the government from introducing the contraband at trial, can lead to dismissal of the charges.
The government must prove the defendant knowingly possessed the contraband with the intent to distribute. Or in the alternative, the defendant acted with others and knew his actions were assisting in the distribution of illegal drugs. Most defenses are built on a challenge to the knowledge element. The viability of this defense is based entirely on the facts of the case. A defendant who is recorded by federal agents discussing the details of a drug run will be in a much different position than a small time actor who may not have knowledge of the trafficking scheme.
Odom, Davis & Hobson
Our firm has handled numerous drug related crimes in federal court over the last 40 years. We have successfully challenged multiple searches under the Fourth Amendment that led to case dismissals. Notably, Brian Hobson represented a defendant charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in 2016. The client was convicted, and our firm appealed the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress on Fourth Amendment grounds. The court of appeals overturned the trial court’s ruling, and vacated the conviction. The case was ultimately dismissed and the defendant was released from custody.
If the Fourth Amendment does not provide a successful avenue for dismissal, our firm has extensive trial experience and is prepared to put the facts before a jury.
Contact us today for consultation.