The penalties for drug possession and distribution are harsh in Colorado, but proving these charges beyond a reasonable doubt is not always straightforward for prosecutors even when large quantities of controlled substances are discovered. Drug charges are frequently dismissed because police officers violated the defendant’s constitutional rights or failed to follow correct procedure during a narcotics investigation. When this happens, the evidence prosecutors rely on may be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and excluded.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects Americans against unlawful searches and seizures. This means police officers generally must obtain search warrants before they can legally search homes, offices or automobiles. If they conduct warrantless searches or mislead judges to obtain search warrants, the evidence they recover could be ruled inadmissible. Without this evidence, drug charges may be very difficult to prove. Courts have ruled that police officers may conduct searches without first obtaining a warrant if they have sufficient probable cause. In a drug case, police officers could act based on probable cause if they see controlled substances in plain sight or observe the defendant buy, sell or use drugs.
Other defenses used in drug cases
Strict procedures must be followed to provide a clear chain of custody for evidence seized by police officers, when shortcuts are taken or paperwork is missing, criminal defense attorneys could seek to have drug charges dismissed. When their clients are charged with drug distribution, attorneys could argue that seized drugs were for personal use and not for sale. If police do not find evidence of a drug distribution operation like scales, bags and large sums of money, this argument could be persuasive.
Remain silent and speak to a lawyer
If you are arrested for drug possession or distribution after police officers discover controlled substances, you may think that cooperating fully is your best option. However, you may be wise to remain silent and ask for an attorney before you make any incriminating statements because drug cases are not always as strong as they look.