Do I Need a Lawyer for A Drug Possession Case?

While there are  promising trends toward reform of the ridiculous and outdated US drug laws, in most places you will still be charged with a crime for possession of any drug, including marijuana.

You might feel that a simple possession charge is a minor incident that doesn’t require any professional legal defense intervention on your behalf. But without legal counsel, you are at risk of  a number of significant serious legal consequences, even for a minor charge. Even if you are not likely at risk of jail time, you are looking at fines, probation, and many states have a mandatory driver’s license suspension for any drug conviction.

And the prospect of a criminal record can be a serious problem, particularly for a young person just starting out in life. That record can haunt them and prevent opportunities for scholarships, jobs, apartment rentals, and anything else that could be negatively affected when someone does a quick online criminal record check and a drug conviction pops up.

I  get calls from people who believe they are innocent, and are wondering if the situation will ultimately just work itself out fairly. However perfectly obvious it is to you that this is just a mistake or misunderstanding, – unfortunately, these things don’t often just get resolved automatically.

For example, a parent whose underage son gets busted while in a car with a friend who happens to have a few bags of ecstasy in his possession. The police will often arrest everyone in the car and charge them with possession with intent to distribute. Even if the person had no idea that his friend was carrying drugs, that felony charge won’t  just get dropped very often without a fight.

What a Lawyer Can Do For You

Beat the Case

The first thing a lawyer does on a case is examine the evidence and determine how strong the case is.

  •  Was the search that lead to the evidence against you legitimate? Would it hold up to a motion to suppress? If not, there might be no admissible evidence to prove the case against you, and your charges should be dropped or dismissed.
  • Did the police make other mistakes in the case?
  • Can the charges be knocked down to a lesser offense?

If your case hasn’t been charged yet, and you’ve been summoned to a show cause or clerk’s hearing prior to arraignment, there is a chance to get the case dumped before there is even an actual criminal charge filed. This is the best possible outcome, it’s as if it never happened. Without a lawyer at that hearing, you are far more likely to be put in the system, since the burden of sufficient evidence to move forward isn’t very high.

Drug Possession Lawer

Of course, we can also move forward and fight the case at a trial, if necessary.

I also fight a lot of operating under the influence of drugs charges, and these cases are actually extremely winnable. It is often hard for the state to overcome the standard of reasonable doubt when there are no objective standards of impairment for drugs like there is a breathalyzer for alcohol.

But that is not something that is likely to happen without a lawyer representing you.

Sentencing Alternatives That Avoid a Criminal Record

This is one of the most common outcomes in drug cases – we find a resolution that gets around the worst penalties and allows you to get on with your life with minimal future problems.

There are a host of possible sentencing alternatives for drug cases that can avoid a criminal record if certain conditions of the court are met. If you complete a program arranged in a drug court, or agree to the conditions of pretrial probation, or deferred prosecution, you can come out the other side without a conviction or a finding of guilty.

What Could Happen Without a An Attorney

It is almost impossible for the average person to “diagnose” themselves with a legal problem on a drug case.  You won’t really know how serious your situation is until it is quite possible too late to do anything about it. There are tons and tons of factors about the person’s history that are really important. And even within a single state, there are lots of variations between different courts about what defense options and sentencing alternatives might be available.

If there is an arrest, it is the prosecutor’s job to get a conviction if he or she believes their is evidence of a crime. The prosecutor has no obligation whatsoever to consider what is in your best interest. So if you try to work out a deal by yourself, as a legal novice you will be completely outmatched. You will simply never find out if your case really should have been dismissed altogether, or you could have gotten a better deal.

That isn’t to say some prosecutors aren’t perfectly decent people and may be reasonable and fair. But you will be taking a huge chance relying on that person to potentially go out of their way to what is best for you as a defendant.

Bottom Line – Talk To a Lawyer

The laws and statutes for possession of drugs are in a state of flux nationwide like no time in recent history.  Full legalization of recreational marijuana has been passed in two states, and we can expect more in the future election cycles. Cannabis for medical use is now legal in 20 states. Many other states like here in Massachusetts have decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of marijuana down to a civil infraction – basically the same as a speeding ticket.

Keeping up with the latest laws and criminal justice options is a full time job in itself, and applying that knowledge requires experience.

The bottom line is that an initial consultation with a defense lawyer who fights drug possession cases is always free. You can then decide your best options with a more informed opinion.


About Russell Matson

Russell Matson is a criminal defense and DUI lawyer in Massachusetts.

  • Jennie Vowell

    My Fiance’ of 3 Years got sentenced to 6 years without probation for growing 4 cannibus plants for his own use… 8.2 ounces total weight. 22 years ago, he had an aggrivated assault because of self defending himself which got dropped..he spent No Time…, 22 years later, when he grew his weed, he has to spend 6 Years in the Mississippi State Pen!!!!!!… He Never Sold To Anyone,….was a 7 Year Vet Overseas….WTH??? PLEASE COMPLY!!!

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  • Regina Lashley

    If one person gets a possession of methamphetemine charge and then before they go to court someone else tells the state prosecutor that it was theirs who gets the charge in Florida?

    • David Matson

      It is up to the prosecutor to decide who to prosecute, and whether to drop the charges against the first person. Someone admitting to a charge after the fact doesn’t necessarily mean that the charge against the first person will be automatically dropped. They could charge them both.
      But it really depends.