August 22nd, 2022

Facing a controlled substance charge? Know your rights.

If you or a loved one is facing a controlled substance charge, it is vital to understand your rights.  At Gross McGinley, LLP, our Allentown criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to helping you navigate these complicated cases.

What to do if you are stopped by law enforcement

It is important to keep in mind that you have certain constitutional protections when  you are detained or arrested by police. Knowing what to do and what not to do in these types of encounters can help you protect yourself and lead to a better outcome for your case. 

Being stopped by police is a stressful experience, but stay calm and avoid resisting or running.  If the police ask to conduct a vehicle search, you are not required to give consent.  In fact, the default rule in Pennsylvania is that an officer must obtain a search warrant to search your vehicle.  If the officer proceeds to search without a search warrant and without consent, any evidence seized may be subject to suppression at a later point.   

Exercise your Miranda rights by saying you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately.  Do not try to explain yourself or give excuses.  Do not sign anything or make any decisions without a criminal defense attorney present.  If you have been arrested, you have the right to make a phone call.  If you call an attorney, the police cannot record that conversation.  However, if you call someone else, they can and likely will record that conversation for later prosecution.

Your defense attorney can determine whether your rights were violated

If you believe your rights were violated or the police did not follow proper procedures when they detained or arrested you, make sure to tell your attorney exactly what happened.  Errors like failing to read a Miranda warning or carrying out an illegal search can result in controlled substance charges being dropped or evidence against you being deemed inadmissible.  The criminal defense attorneys at Gross McGinley, LLP are well-versed in all aspects of state and federal criminal law.

Constructive vs. actual possession

You can be found guilty of possessing a controlled substance if you actually or constructively possessed the item(s).  Actual possession means you had physical control of a controlled substance (i.e. the item was in your pocket).  Constructive possession occurs when you have the power to control the item and intent to exercise control over it—even if you are not physically in contact with that item.

Usually, constructive possession of a controlled substance is charged when police find drugs during the search of a home or car.  Anyone in the area that was searched may be charged with constructive possession.  

The burden of proof rests on the prosecution

In any criminal case in the United States, a defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. To get a conviction, prosecutors must demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed a crime.

For example, if you’ve been charged with constructive possession of a controlled substance, the prosecution must prove that you know the drugs were there, you were in the proximity of them, and that you intended to take control of them.

To demonstrate this, the prosecutor must present evidence such as fingerprints, statements made by a defendant, or other evidence like photos or video footage.  One possible defense is that you didn’t know the drugs were there and that multiple people had access to the area where the drugs were found.  There are many different ways to construct a defense for controlled substance charges, and the approach your drug defense attorney takes depends on the specific circumstances.

You may be eligible for ARD

An Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) is a diversionary program in Pennsylvania that allows a person to obtain a dismissal and expungement of all charges in a criminal case.  It usually requires a defendant to complete a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and may include fines, supervision, and community service.  Once your all requirements for ARD are completed, charges may be dismissed and expunged.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania often use ARD for misdemeanor charges like possession of a small amount of marijuana, misuse of medical marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and DUI.  Eligibility decisions are made by the district attorney for the county in which the charges are filed. Obtaining ARD for felony charges is rare, and much more challenging.

Local criminal defense attorneys protect your rights

Our criminal defense attorneys in Allentown are familiar with prosecutors throughout the area and know the best ways to present evidence and negotiate to have charges dismissed, reduced, or obtain approval for an ARD.  If you are facing more serious controlled substance charges on a federal level, our criminal defense lawyers are licensed and experienced in those types of cases as well.

Contact a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney

At Gross McGinley, LLP, we believe that everyone who is charged with a crime deserves the best defense possible.  If you or a loved one is facing controlled substance charges, you can trust us to clearly explain your rights and provide an aggressive defense on your behalf.  To schedule a consultation with a criminal defense attorney, contact us online or call us at 610-820-5450 today.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.