Minnesota law prohibits the possession, manufacture, and sale of certain controlled substances. If you are charged with a drug crime, there may be several drug defenses available. One should always consult with an attorney if charged with a criminal offense, but the following are the top ten defenses one might use to combat a drug charge.
Unlawful Search or Seizure
Search and seizure issues are quite common in drug cases. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In other words, police generally may not search or seize a person’s property without first having probable cause to believe that she committed a crime. If an officer illegally searches or seizes an individual’s property, any evidence obtained during that search may not be used at trial. If the evidence is suppressed, the State cannot proceed and the charge will usually be dismissed.
Lack of Possession
Another common defense to a drug charge is to simply that the drugs don’t belong to the person charged. This defense has a greater likelihood of success if more than one person is present at the time the drugs are discovered. For example, if the drugs are found in an apartment with multiple tenants, a defendant can argue that the drugs do not belong to her, or that she had no idea drugs were present. This defense places the burden of proof on the State to show that the drugs actually belonged to the defendant.
Miranda Rights Violation
If a person is placed under arrest and he makes statements before the police inform him of his right to remain silent, those statements may not be used against him in court. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that whenever a person is taken into police custody, the individual must be told of his right to not make any self-incriminating statements before being questioned by the police.
Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement officer pressures a person into committing a crime that the person would have otherwise been unlikely or unwilling to commit. Entrapment is an abuse of police power. Further, if individual working for police (e.g. an informant) pressures a person into passing drugs to a third party, the entrapment defense may apply.
Proof of Substance/Crime Lab Analysis
Just because the State says that the evidence obtained by police looks like cocaine or meth doesn’t mean that it actually is. The State is required to scientifically prove that a substance is a controlled substance by sending the evidence to a crime lab for analysis. The crime lab analyst must then testify at trial and affirm the veracity of the drugs. If the State fails to provide such evidence, the case will likely be dismissed.
Proof of Knowledge or Intent
The State must prove that a defendant had a particular state of mind at the time the drugs were possessed. For example, the State needs to prove that an individual had actual knowledge that he or she possessed drugs. If a person is charged with a sales crime, the State must prove that the person intentionally sold a particular drug. If the State fails to prove that the individual actually knew that he or she was in possession of drugs or intentionally sold drugs, the charges may be dropped.
Presence of the Actual Drugs
The State must be able to produce the actual drugs for which a person is being charged. If you are charged with a drug crime and the State no longer retains the actual drugs seized during the officer’s search, the charge will likely be dropped.
Deferred Prosecution Programs
In Minnesota, some jurisdictions offer diversion programs for individuals charged with drug crimes. In other words, an individual may avail himself to a plea negotiation that will divert his sentencing in the event that he successfully completes certain requirements. These programs are called diversion programs, and are designed to help keep low-level, misdemeanor offenders out of jail. In certain circumstances charges may be dropped, and in some cases, may help a person avoid court appearances or fines.
If an individual is addicted to drugs or alcohol, there may be help within the criminal justice system. If a person is willing to enter a Treatment Court, adjudication of a sentence may be stayed if one successfully completes the program. Treatment Court programs are rigorous, and include intensive supervision, but if one successfully completes the program, all charges may be dismissed.
Medical Marijuana Exception
The use of medical marijuana was recently legalized in Minnesota. However, a person must be a legal resident of Minnesota, diagnosed with a qualifying condition, and have a medical prescription allowing her to participate in the registry program. If a person legally participates in this program, she likely has a defense to drug charges involving marijuana.