Possession of Drugs
Possession of illegal narcotics is a serious charge that can result in a jail sentence.Elements of Drug Possession
In order to convict a defendant of drug possession charges, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant possessed some perceptible amount of a controlled substance; and
- The defendant possessed the substance knowingly or intentionally.
Motions to Suppress are very common in drug possession cases. Ordinarily the police need to search the defendant to determine that he or she is in possession of the controlled substance. On many occasions, a police officer’s search of the defendant violates the defendant’s constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches. In these cases, Attorney Spring files and aggressively litigates motions to suppress the drugs.
Possession can be proven by actual physical custody (for example, a defendant carrying a bag of cocaine in his or her pocket). However, actual physical custody is not required to prove possession. An object is considered to be in a person’s possession if he or she has the ability to exercise control over the object either directly or through another person (for example, a defendant possesses items kept in his or her bureau at home or safe deposit box at the bank). On the other hand, possession is not established simply because a defendant knows there are drugs nearby. This distinction is important in the context of motor vehicle searches. When the police pull over a car containing several passengers and there are drugs found in the passenger compartment of the car, who is criminally responsible? It is a fact-specific question, but each passenger has a strong defense that he or she was not in possession of the drugs. If the police report or the grand jury minutes do not establish a credible link between the drugs and his clients, Attorney Spring will file motions to dismiss the complaint or the indictment.
Until recently, the prosecutor could prove the substance was a narcotic by simply introducing a copy of the drug certificate from the state laboratory, in which a state chemist would write that he or she tested the substance and it tested positive for narcotics. However, in 2009, the United States Supreme Court ruled in a case called Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts that in order for the results of the lab test to be admissible in front of the jury, the chemist must appear at the trial in person and testify. This rule has proven to be beneficial to defendants, both because the chemists sometimes fail to appear in court (which often causes cases to be dismissed) and when they do appear, there is an entire line of cross-examination that is available to defense attorneys.
Because a conviction for drug possession charges results in serious consequences, including the possibility of jail time, you need to be represented by an attorney with extensive experience in litigating such cases. As an assistant district attorney earlier in his career, Attorney Spring prosecuted hundreds of drug cases, from straight possession charges to trafficking. Since forming Spring & Spring, he has successfully defended hundreds of people charged with drug crimes.