Constitutional Issues in Dumfries Drug Cases

Building a defense against drug cases often involves three main areas of constitutional concerns. They involve the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment. An experienced and diligent Dumfries drug defense attorney can help you or a loved one craft a legal defense if you are facing drug charges.

Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects our citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The courts have interpreted the Fourth Amendment to now require a warrant for any search.

However, the courts have also identified certain exceptions to the warrant requirement. Many drug cases – in fact, the vast majority of them – involve warrantless searches, usually of vehicles. Courts have allowed for warrantless searches of vehicles when there’s probable cause to conduct the search. It is up to the Dumfries drug defense lawyer that a person retains on his or her case to determine whether or not the government can establish that there was in fact probable cause to search the vehicle or the person or wherever else the government agent has searched.

Self-Incrimination

Fifth Amendment concerns are always important to drug cases. In many drug cases, the best evidence that the government might have against a person came out of their own mouth, perhaps in the form of a state-mandatory question or a confession. Prior to giving a statement, under certain circumstances, the government agents have an obligation to advise a person to let them know that they have the right not to say anything, and they have the right to have attorneys present or in question. These are what most people know as the Miranda rights.

But Miranda warnings don’t always have to be read. In fact, most circumstances of an investigation do not require them.  It is up to the Dumfries defense attorney to be able to successfully challenge the admissibility of any statements that might violate the Fifth Amendment.

The Right to Trial

Finally, the Six Amendment comes into play in drug cases, because it ensures that a person who is on trial has the right to confront all witnesses against him or her. This right becomes triggered when the government seeks to admit certain pieces of evidence, like the certificate of analysis, identifying of substances being a certain kind of drug. In the past, Virginia law allowed the government to simply admit a certificate of analysis and have the sufficient evidence to prove that a substance was, in fact, a drug of a certain kind.

Several years ago, the supreme court of the United States issued a ruling that eliminated that practice. The government now must admit at trial the testimony of the person creating the test or conducting the test that establishes the nature and quantity of the drug that they have accused the defendant of possessing or distributing.

Contacting an Attorney

It is imperative that you contact an attorney as soon as you are arrested. A Dumfries attorney with drug defense experience will be able to inform you of your rights and options as soon as you are in contact. In preparing the case, there are a number of different things that a  lawyer needs to be do, the vast majority of which should be done as soon as possible. For that reason, you want to give your lawyer as much time as possible to build up the defense of your case until the trial date.