Drug possession: some basic parameters; role of defense attorney

Drug possession: some basic parameters; role of defense attorney

| Sep 24, 2014 | Felonies |

When most people in Maryland or elsewhere hear the phrase “drug possession,” their heads aren’t likely full of ideas and considerations relating to the parameters of those words.

That is decidedly not the case for an experienced criminal defense attorney who routinely brings that experience to bear on behalf of clients charged with drug crimes.

That attorney knows that the term “possession” is open-ended and quite ambiguous absent more information required to flesh out precisely what it is intended to mean in a specific case.

Are authorities seeking to charge an individual for a drug offense relating to possession for personal use? Conversely, are they attempting to link that possession with an intent to distribute drugs to others in a wider criminal scheme?

Drug possession laws encompass myriad factors that are highly relevant on what might reasonably be deemed a sliding scale. As noted in a so-called “Drug Possession Overview” provided by an online provider of legal information, such laws “generally fall into one of two main categories.”

At one end of the criminal law spectrum is simple possession, which is most commonly a misdemeanor charge connected with personal use of a relatively limited amount of an illegal or controlled drug (such drugs range from marijuana and methamphetamine to OxyContin and club drugs such as Ecstasy).

At the other end of the continuum is possession with intent to distribute, which is deemed by criminal law authorities as a much more serious felony offense.

Sentencing outcomes reflect the difference between the two extremes. Drug courts and diversionary programs that allow for treatment rather than incarceration are far more common in cases of simple possession than they are in intent-to-sell cases.

Regardless of how alleged criminal activity is charged, there is a ready opportunity for proven defense counsel to closely examine and challenge the particulars of an allegation against a client. Search and seizure issues might spell big question marks. A traffic stop might raise red flags regarding lack of probable cause or a pretextual nature. A multitude of additional issues might emerge as problematic.

The possibility that legal challenges to a criminal charge exist — as they often do — in any given case merits an accused party’s consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as practicable following an arrest.