The War on Drugs was already several decades old when Len Bias, a basketball phenom whom many compared to Michael Jordan, was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1986.
At a celebratory party, Len did one hit of cocaine and died two days later. His shocking death sent the War on Drugs into overtime. Congress immediately passed harsh sentences, including lengthy mandatory minimums, for even minor drug possession and distribution offenses. Many states, including Minnesota, followed suit.
Today, those harsh sentences are largely gone at the federal level, largely due to the 2019 FIRST STEP Act. State level drug crimes, however, are a different story. Since the penalties are harsh and the laws are broad, a St. Paul drug crime lawyer plays a pivotal role in this process.
There are a number of valid defenses to drug crimes charges. The sooner an attorney gets started, the more effective these defenses will be.
Prosecutors routinely press the most serious charges the facts will allow. Sometimes, they just look for keywords. Jumping the gun in this way can cause problems later.
Fourth-degree controlled substance possession is a good example. Subdivision (1)(4) contains some location enhancements. It’s a felony to sell marijuana near:
These descriptions seem specific, but they are actually rather vague. If Joe sells marijuana near a school on a July night, that school is just an empty building. Additionally, “public housing” is a nebulous category. Many apartment complexes have a few subsidized units among hundreds of full-price units. Are these buildings “public housing” or not?
We recently blogged about CBD Oil. This marijuana extract may not technically be illegal under Minnesota law. However, if you have it without a prescription, officers will almost certainly arrest you. Similarly, a few weeks ago, Florida officials said they might throw out as many as 80 drug cases linked to a shady deputy. In one case, officers arrested a man and charged him with possession of heroin. Subsequent chemical tests revealed that the substance was, in fact, laundry detergent.
Cases like these are rare, but they do occur. So, a good St. Paul criminal defense lawyer will turn over every rock.
Faulty searches or seizures win lots of cases in court. If the search is bad, the judge will exclude the evidence, making it nearly impossible to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Drug trafficking cases normally involve search warrants. Many times, these warrants rely, at least in large part, on paid informer tips. In a major case, a police snitch might receive tens of thousands of dollars. So, Ramsey County judges scrutinize these tips closely. Some factors to consider include:
In this context, the ends never justify the means. Prosecutors cannot argue that if the tip was accurate, it must have been reliable.
Drug possession cases, on the other hand, normally rely on search warrant exceptions. If an exception applies, the officers had probable cause so they did not need a warrant. Common search warrant exceptions include:
Other exceptions include the search incident to arrest exception, which is not used much anymore, and the weapons pat-down exception.
Even if a motion to suppress the search is unsuccessful, a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer can still use the lack of evidence defense. This defense is often successful, especially in prescription drug cases.
There is no Breathalyzer test for prescription drugs like Oxycontin. Officers can order blood tests, but these exams are expensive and time-consuming, so most officers don’t like messing with them. So, the prosecutor must rely on circumstantial evidence, such as:
Circumstantial evidence like this is pretty weak, so a Ramsey County prosecutor needs a lot of it to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Drug cases are difficult, but not impossible, to defend. For a free consultation with an experienced St. Paul criminal defense lawyer, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.