Importance of Hiring a Manassas Drug Lawyer
It is important to hire an attorney early on in a criminal case because there are certain things that need to be done to prepare for court. The sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner that attorney can file documents such as discovery motions and requests for certificates of analysis. There are also procedural actions required to properly defend a drug possession case. The sooner a Manassas drug lawyer gets involved, the better for the client, because it ensures that the case has a chance of going forward as originally scheduled. Beyond that, there could also be issues not immediately obvious which take some time to flesh out, such as how the police came to know you were in possession of those drugs.
Constitutional Issues in Manassas Drug Cases
There are Constitutional issues in many Manassas possession case. There are obviously exceptions, but often times the drugs were not in plain sight for everyone to see. Generally speaking, these cases involve some kind of search by law enforcement. Any time there is a search, whether it be of a person’s body, clothes, belongings, vehicle, or house, there is a potential Constitutional issue due to the requirement of warrants for these kinds of searches. Generally speaking in these cases, there are no warrants.
In these cases the police are usually operating under one of the many exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. We then have to see how that search was conducted, how these drugs were discovered and then find out if the manner in which they were discovered is in fact pursuant to any of the exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement.
Additionally, statements made to the police can bring up Constitutional issues. The Fifth Amendment guarantees a person’s right to remain silent. If the police have you in custody and are interrogating you, you have the right to be advised of your Fifth Amendment rights. In this situation, if the police fail to read you your Fifth Amendment rights, commonly known as the Miranda warnings, then your statements to the police can be excluded at trial.
Building a Defense
The first thing we look for is how the drugs were discovered. If they were discovered pursuant to any kind of a search, we see if there was a warrant and if not, if that search falls under any of the exceptions to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. We look at whether the client made any statements to law enforcement. If so, were they pursuant to custodial interrogation? If they were, was the person properly advised of their Miranda rights? A Manassas drug lawyer will look at any existing certificates of analysis to determine if the state can actually prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs or that the substances are in fact illegal drugs. We look at where the drugs were found and whether the location of the drugs can be legally linked to the client.
Actual Possession v. Constructive Possession
There are different legal types of possession in Virginia. There is actual possession and constructive possession. If the person is in actual possession, that means they are holding it, or it is in their pocket or their purse. Constructive possession is more difficult for the government to prove. It is possession where essentially the drugs are in the same location as with actual possession, but the government has to prove the person exerted some control over the substance, was aware of its presence, and knew what it was. They have to prove all of these things beyond reasonable doubt. There are many things at which we have to look. There are many factors that come into play with drug possession charges and we look at each and every one of them to determine whether they are applicable defenses in each client’s case.
Evidence to Look For
A Manassas drug lawyer needs to look at the actual substance found by the police to make sure they are proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the possession was for something you are not allowed to have under Virginia law. Other than that kind of physical evidence, most other evidence is testimonial, in the sense that it’s necessary to understand the facts of what happened in each case.