You or someone you love in Colorado has been arrested on charges of drug possession. You're scared and confused. You know that a guilty conviction can have serious repercussions on the rest of your life, and you have no idea what comes next. It may offer some consolation to know what possible approaches a lawyer might consider when putting together your criminal defense strategy.
Common defenses to drug possession charges
While some approaches are more typical than others, your lawyer may choose one of the following generally accepted defense strategies:
- Medical marijuana exception
- The drugs belong to someone else
- The drugs were planted
- Missing drugs
- Unlawful search and seizure
Medical marijuana exception
First and foremost, if law enforcement arrested you for carrying marijuana but you have a prescription or can show evidence of a medical need, this will be a perfectly acceptable defense. Colorado allows for the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana or six plants for a number of medical conditions.
The drugs belong to someone else
Prosecutors bear the burden of proof. A frequent criminal defense strategy is to tell the judge and jury that the drugs did not belong to you, or that you didn't know they were on your property. The prosecuting attorney will have to prove otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.
The drugs were planted/Entrapment
These approaches may be more difficult to prove but are still viable for particular cases. If a police officer planted the drugs, your attorney can request the release of the officer's complaint file. If this request receives a judge's approval, the file will have the name of anyone else who has made complaints, and your attorney or a private investigator can interview them.
Similarly, entrapment occurs when the state provides the drugs as part of a sting operation, and law enforcement pressures the defendant into passing on the drugs. An experienced lawyer could show evidence of this in court.
Seized drugs generally change hands a number of times before authorities place them in the evidence locker. Along the way, they frequently go missing. Evidence must be produced upon demand, so if the drugs were lost or misplaced and cannot be located during trial, an attorney can use that in an attempt to get the case dismissed.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
Search and seizure procedures must lawfully follow protocol, as guaranteed by the right to due process in the Fourth Amendment, but issues frequently arise. If, for example, the drugs were found after an officer pried open a car trunk without permission, this is a violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. Under these or similar circumstances, the drugs would not be usable as evidence and the charges would likely be dismissed.
Do you believe that one of these defenses strategies could be effective against the charges you face, but you are still not sure where to start? A criminal defense attorney will have an in-depth knowledge of state and federal laws, and will be familiar with all of these common strategies and more. No matter how daunting your particular situation may seem, an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney will almost certainly be able to find a defense strategy that is right for you.