Are There Defenses For Drug Charges?
Generally, an arrest with drugs on your person or in your possession in Florida will yield to you being charged with some kind of offense. The state has a history of drug trafficking, which means that prosecutors are less inclined to be lenient, especially if the amount of drugs involved is over a certain threshold. However, if you are charged, you need to be aware that there are possible defenses you can assert, depending on your situation. Having an experienced attorney on your side can help make your options more clear.
Affirmative Defenses Exist
In some situations, there may be no mitigating circumstances to argue if you are stopped with drugs in your possession. In other situations, however, you may be able to assert what are called affirmative defenses – statements of fact that, if proven true, get you off the proverbial hook. For example, if you are charged with drug possession for carrying a bottle of Xanax, the charges may be dropped if you can show that you had a prescription from a medical professional for it. You might also be able to allege that you did not know the substance was controlled – if you are given MDMA and told it is candy, you can allege that you did not knowingly possess a controlled substance.
The other major affirmative defense that a person can allege in a drug possession case is that they did not exercise control over the substance. Florida law holds that to be found guilty of drug possession, a person must have had control of the substance (either actually, in hand, or constructively, where no one else could have had control of it). If you did not, then one of the requirements for the charge is no longer present.
Bias May Play A Role
In addition to affirmative defenses based in law, it is worth noting that Florida’s sentencing structure has historically been described as “broken,” especially with regard to racial disparities. A Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigation in 2016 found serious disparities in sentences given to black and white people – for example, felony drug charges netted black defendants an average of 338 days in lockup, while white defendants spent only around 200. When approximately 1.7 million drug arrests occurred in the U.S. in 2018, the numbers add up. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that while only around 14 percent of drug users are black, roughly one-third of the drug possession arrests in the country are of black people – roughly 560,000, if one takes the 1.7 million figure as accurate.
The Herald-Tribune investigation quoted several judges who denied displaying any conscious bias – but unconscious bias is very real, and may occur even without a person’s knowledge. If you have reason to believe bias exists – for example, receiving a harsher sentence than the guidelines or Florida’s point system calls for – it may be worth it to raise the issue with your attorney. While a credible accusation of bias will not get you acquitted, it will possibly get your case reviewed, so that you can get your fair day in court.
Call A West Palm Beach Drug Offense Attorney
If you have been charged with a drug offense, and you believe that there are additional circumstances that play a role in your arrest, it is important that you ensure the court hears about them. The West Palm Beach drug crime attorneys at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help you get your fair day in court. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.