Being charged with drug possession is a terrifying experience, and it can be tempting to accept any plea bargain a prosecutor presents which allows you to maintain your freedom. However, accepting such an offer generally involves entering a guilty plea, and you should never do this without first seeking legal counsel. You have a right to an attorney, and you should exercise that right before answering any questions or accepting any offers. Drug related convictions can have serious consequences which extend far beyond the immediate concerns of fines and imprisonment, which is why no one should face drug possession charges in Connecticut without a good Stamford criminal lawyer in his corner.
The first thing an experienced criminal attorney in CT will examine is the strength of the evidence against you. There are several elements which must be proven by the state in a possession case. The first is that you knew what the substance was and that it was actually in your possession. This doesn’t mean that drugs actually have to be on your person; they can be in your house, locker, car or anywhere else that allows you access. The fact that you happened to be in the same place as the drugs may indicate possession, but that by itself is not sufficient evidence; especially if it is a location which is open to a number of individuals. For example, if drugs are found in the house where a party is taking place, then additional proof will be needed to support possession charges against any particular individual.
Law enforcement officers only have the right to search you, your car, your home or your possessions if they have a court-issued search warrant or if they have a reasonable suspicion that you have drugs on your person. Mere suspicion, however, does not mean that if the police find an ounce of marijuana in your pocket then they can then search your apartment or the locked trunk of your car without your permission or a warrant. Your Stamford criminal lawyer will conduct a careful examination of the elements of the search to make certain your rights were not violated. If the search was illegal, then the attorney can petition the court to throw out any evidence seized at that time.
If the charges are relatively minor, then the prosecutor has the ability to offer a “Nolle”, or nolo prosequi. This means that they will drop the case and have the charges removed from court records if you go 13 months without getting into any trouble. If this happens, then the case is closed. However, if you do in fact get into legal trouble during that time, then the charges may be prosecuted with more serious consequences than if you had not been given this opportunity.
Other options a Stamford criminal lawyer will pursue for first-time offenders include the Drug Education Program (DEP), Accelerated Rehabilitation Program or the Community Service Labor Program. The DEP is a pretrial program for citizens charged with possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia. If accepted into the program, then you must complete drug education, perform community service hours, and must not incur any further charges during the stated period. Upon successful completion of the program, all charges will be dismissed. If a DEP petition is not granted, then your Stamford criminal attorney can petition the court for one of the alternate diversionary programs. Candidates for the Accelerated Rehabilitation Program must have a clean prior record, be facing minor charges which may result in incarceration, and be able to convince the court that they are not likely to offend again. The program includes education, random drug testing, counseling and community service and supervision can continue for a maximum of two years. Upon successful completion all charges are dropped.
The Community Service Labor Program is the only diversionary option for drug possession charges that may be available twice. First-time offenders are given an option to attend education and complete a minimum of 14 days of community service. Once all of the aspects are completed, the charges are dismissed. If a person has entered this program for a second offense, then it can only be used as a suspended sentence after a guilty plea has been entered.
Are you or a loved one facing drug possession charges? If so, contact Mark Sherman, a criminal attorney in Stamford, CT. He’ll fight to get the charges dropped and to reach the best resolution of your case.
Mark Sherman, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Fordham University of Law, has been a member in good standing of the Connecticut, New York and Florida State Bars since 1998. He has offices in Stamford, Connecticut and New York, New York, and practices in both locations. He has been recognized as a top business professional by the Fairfield County Business Journal and has been honored as a “Super Lawyer” by both New England and Connecticut Super Lawyers for 2011, 2012 and 2013.