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Columbia Drug Lawyer

There has been a recent trend in how to treat and address drug charges. In the past, it was all about punishing individuals, however now, the idea is to help them treat the issue. This is because, unlike someone who attacks somebody else or breaks into a house, with a drug crime the victim is usually the individual defendant.

There has even been a push to reduce penalties for basic drug crimes because of the shift toward treatment over incarceration and punishment. While this can often be a positive for those facing drug-related offenses, these charges are still taken seriously enough that they can cause repercussions for school, work, and individual’s criminal record, and even lead to incarceration. As a result, it is always important to contact a Columbia drug attorney as soon as possible. A defense attorney in Columbia can, first, help you challenge the legitimacy of the charge, for instance by determining whether the police did an illegal search or seizure. And second, an attorney can gather the resources to make the best case for why treatment or education is a better fit for the particular defendant than punishment.

Common Charges

Even if a person is not a drug dealer, they can be charged with the felony of distribution just by virtue of sharing or giving their own personal amount to somebody else. It is always considered a felony to be caught with a large amount, with the intention to distribute.  However, if someone is found to be actually distributing, the amount in question could be smaller and still be charged as a felony offense.

Drug use is not permitted and if someone is caught, there are significant penalties. For example, a lot of times, people are caught on campus parties, college parties. If that is the case, one possible penalty is that the college or university will likely withdraw financial aid from students convicted of a crime or drug offense while in school.

Potential Defenses

Numerous constitutional issues can arise in drug cases, the most prevalent of which are illegal searches and seizures. Everyone is protected under the Constitution from unreasonable search and seizures by the police which means in order to conduct a search a police officer needs probable cause. Therefore, if the police pull someone over for a speeding ticket, they cannot then search the trunk.

Often times, police will call a K9 unit, but a police officer must quickly complete the purpose of the traffic stop. In other words, they cannot hold somebody while awaiting the arrival of the K9 unit. To illustrate: If they pull somebody over and the K9 arrives two minutes later, it is not an issue. But if the officer takes 20 minutes to write a speeding ticket, waiting for the K9 unit to arrive, and the unit then puts a positive alert and finds drugs, that is an illegal action by the police. And if they are found to have conducted an illegal search, illegal seizure, and an illegal detention, then no matter what they find, it cannot be used against the defendant in court because constitutional rights were violated.

Marijuana

The legalization of marijuana has a number of misconceptions surrounding it. There is a difference between legalization and decriminalization. Amounts of marijuana weighing less than ten grams have been decriminalized. What this means is that, within the specified legal quantity, an individual cannot be incarcerated for possession of marijuana. Instead, the police will write up the person for a civil citation that leads to a fine. The officer will still confiscate the marijuana–an individual cannot have it, cannot smoke it, cannot buy it, cannot possess it. The only change with decriminalization is that it is only a civil citation that leads to a fine, instead of leading to an arrest. However, if the quantity in question is over ten grams, the person caught with the marijuana will be arrested and faces possible incarceration.

Medical Marijuana

Maryland is currently considering medical marijuana legislation. If and when the legislation is passed and becomes law, someone with a patient card will be able to go in a dispensary and purchase it. They will be able to purchase it and smoke it in the confines of their home with restrictions. But until that legislation is passed–and even once it does– anyone who does not have that patient card will be cited, arrested and/or prosecuted for possession of marijuana.

How An Attorney Can Help

It is important to contact a Columbia drug attorney immediately. Oftentimes, when someone is arrested and being held, an attorney can help get them released. Also, once a person has an attorney, investigators and policemen cannot talk with the defendant directly as the attorney becomes an official representative, and handles all communication with opposing counsel, thus protecting the accused.

Another way a drug attorney in Columbia will help is by moving quickly to preserve evidence, obtain evidence, witnesses, etc. This is important because memories start to fade, and video surveillance footage could be lost because businesses may purge data after a certain amount of time. Consider too that exploring treatment options and building a defense take time. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner you can start building a case to obtain your strongest result.