Drug charges are never to be taken lightly. In severe cases, conviction can result in years in prison and extremely high fines. However, just as there are laws that regular people must follow in order to avoid being arrested and prosecuted, police officers have rules and regulations that have to be obeyed as well. If this doesn’t happen, your case can be dismissed.
This is exactly what happened recently in Houston, where more than 160 cases were dismissed due to faulty arrests and police corruption. Moreover, as ABC News describes, “Prosecutors expect more cases will be dismissed. Earlier Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declared that one of the individuals whose case was dismissed earlier this year…was innocent.” The unsurprising kicker — according to US News, the bulk of these 160 cases are “minorities and the majority are African American.”
The situation has stoked the flames of a social debate regarding:
- The care being given to accuracy in these cases
- A question of police integrity
- And a demand for improvement from this legal mismanagement
Clearly, there is a reckoning going on right now over how law enforcement officers handle themselves, and what it means to the validity of arrests, charges, and convictions. That being said, if you find yourself charged with possession of drugs, you should not rely on police misconduct to get you out of the trouble you’re in.
Why? First off, these kinds of dismissals generally only make up a small percentage of overall cases. Despite police corruption getting big headlines, most cases simply don’t involve it. Second, even if the police do “cheat” in your case — or simply make mistakes — that’s not a guarantee that your charges will be dropped or dismissed. Depending on the errors in question, they may only be something the judge takes into consideration when looking at the bigger picture of your case. Or perhaps it will result in certain pieces of evidence being disregarded, but not others.
Bottom line, you still need to fight back, because the penalties can be surprisingly serious — especially if the drugs in question fall into one of the more severe penalty groups. Thankfully, there are numerous other defenses available to you.
Defending yourself against drug possession charges in Texas starts with knowing the law. Understanding how the law works tells you what is actually required of the prosecution in order to convict you of the crime in question. Your job is to raise doubts about whether the definition of drug possession as written fits your circumstances.
Some of the most common and successful defenses against possession charges include:
Not Your Drugs
There are all kinds of situations where the person actually in possession of the drugs can be called into question. Say, for example, you were at a party where drugs were present. Or they were found in your car or apartment. A skilled Texas criminal attorney will demand that prosecutors offer definitive proof that the drugs were actually yours and did not belong to another partygoer, car passenger, or houseguest.
Not Actually a Controlled Substance
This one may seem crazy, but it is not all that uncommon for people to be arrested for substances that look like illegal drugs even though they aren’t. Don’t assume that this is a simple error that will correct itself. If you were arrested or charged for possessing a substance that isn’t actually illegal, fight to make sure it is tested in a lab and those results are admitted into evidence.
Drugs Have Gone Missing
The state can’t convict you of a drug crime if they don’t have the drugs they say they found on you. Experienced lawyers know to ask for the drugs to be presented, because more often than law enforcement would like to admit, drugs get lost somewhere along the evidence chain as they are moved from place to place.
Illegal Search and Seizure
This is the one type of police “misconduct” that does come up in a lot of cases. Essentially, there are specific procedures that must be followed by police when searching suspects, and these rules are often bent — if not broken — in drug possession cases. For example, while police can seize illicit substances that are in plain sight (such as if you’re smoking a joint in front of them), it is illegal for them to search the trunk of your car without your permission. This is a right protected under the Fourth Amendment of the United States.
These are just a few of the possible defenses available to you. The best one for you will depend upon the specific circumstances of your case. Highlighting the way you were treated by the police may be an option that makes sense, but if not, there are other arguments you can use.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others