Every year, thousands of Oklahoma residents are arrested for and charged with drug possession charges. Many of these arrests involve small amounts of illegal drugs found on the individual’s person or in their vehicle. Drug possession in Oklahoma is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of one year and a fine of up to $1,000.
If you are charged with drug possession, a criminal defense lawyer can determine which defenses might apply to your case. In some cases, it might be wise to dispute the testimony, the evidence, and the purported facts in the case. In others, the defense focus on procedural mistakes such as the violation of a person’s search and seizure rights.
The following are the most common defenses to charges of drug possession:
- Unlawful search and seizure – The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to due process of law, including lawful search and seizure procedures before an arrest is made. While illegal drugs found in “plain view” may be seized and used as evidence, those found in the trunk of a vehicle without consent from the owner is deemed inadmissible in court. If the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, then the drugs cannot be used at trial and the charges are often dismissed.
- Lack of possession – This type of defense is used quite frequently when the “dominion and control” element for constructive possession is difficult for the prosecutor to prove. For example, if drugs were found in a car with several people in it or in a house where a homeowner is absent but a renter is present, it would be hard to accuse only one person of drug possession.
- Missing drugs – An experienced attorney will make the prosecution physically produce the actual drugs in question. If the drugs cannot be produced, then there is no proof they exist or ever existed. Since drugs can be exchanged or transferred many times prior to trial, prosecutors who lose track of the drugs may also lose their case.
- Crime lab analysis was inaccurate – Just because it looks like a drug doesn’t necessarily mean it is. In order for the prosecution to prove that a seized substance is the illicit drug in question, they send the evidence to a crime lab for analysis. A crime lab analyst typically must testify and explain the lab’s findings.
- Drugs were planted – Since a law enforcement’s testimony carries a substantial amount of weight in the courtroom, this defense may be difficult to prove. If you believe that the police planted drugs to arrest you, inform your lawyer, who can file a motion to obtain the complaint file of the police officer in question. If that officer has planted drugs or otherwise broke rules in the past, the charged that the drugs were planted will gain credibility.