While we don’t condone taking drugs like cocaine in public or private, we understand that sometimes adults choose to partake in recreational use. Whether it’s your first time, something you do on special occasions, or something you take part in regularly, if you’re caught in possession of cocaine, you’re likely going to be facing some trouble.
Whether you’re a first-time offender or you have prior drug arrests, being arrested for possession will likely leave you with many questions. Keep reading to learn more about the steps to take immediately after an arrest, potential defense strategies available to you, and more.
Understanding Cocaine Possession Laws
The law doesn’t care if you were in a bar, club, or sitting in your car; cocaine possession is illegal. Drug laws can be quite complicated, as it's not just about the physical ownership of drugs but also about the person's intent and control over the substance.
Federal Cocaine Laws
Under federal law, cocaine is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance. Possession of any amount of cocaine is illegal, and penalties range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the amount of cocaine found and the person's criminal history.
Federal law stipulates that a first-time conviction for simple possession can result in a prison sentence of up to one year and a fine of at least $1,000. Penalties increase for subsequent convictions, with a second conviction resulting in 15 days to 2 years in prison and a minimum fine of $2,500.
State Cocaine Laws
State laws may vary but generally provide uniform penalties for offenders. In Florida, for example, possession of cocaine is classified as a third-degree felony, and offenders can be punished with up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Subsequent convictions result in harsher penalties, ranging from five to thirty years in prison.
However, if the possession is with the intent to sell, distribute, or manufacture, the classification is raised to a second-degree felony, which carries more severe penalties, such as up to 15 years in prison.
Simple vs. Constructive Cocaine Possession
Simple possession means someone knowingly carries cocaine or purposefully has it under their personal, physical control, such as in a pocket or purse. To be charged with simple possession, the person must know that they have the drug and that it’s illegal.
On the other hand, constructive possession is a broader term encompassing situations where a person has legal control over the drug, even if they don't have direct physical control. This can include cases where cocaine's found in a home, vehicle, business, or other property owned or rented by the person or in a hotel room where they're a guest.
Constructive possession charges may also be filed if a person is closely associated with another individual who possesses cocaine, such as a passenger in their car or someone with whom they share an apartment.
Immediate Steps To Take After Being Arrested
Even if your gut tells you to panic, don't let the shock of an arrest prevent you from responding to the situation effectively. Immediately taking the necessary steps after being arrested can protect your rights and improve your chances of a favorable outcome in your case.
Remain Silent And Cooperate With Law Enforcement
Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to remain silent and protect yourself from self-incrimination. Use this right to your advantage because anything you say during this time can be used against you in court.
By invoking your right to stay quiet, you’re taking an important first step in securing your legal position and ensuring you don’t inadvertently compromise your defense strategy.
Always provide truthful information about your identity and basic personal information, which can facilitate and expedite the arrest process. However, it’s important that you don't disclose any additional information without consulting legal counsel.
Seek Legal Representation
Under U.S. law, anyone who has been arrested for a crime has the right to legal representation, and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.
No matter the crime you’ve been charged with, it’s important to have a lawyer present during any questioning by law enforcement to protect your rights and interests.
Your attorney will help you navigate complex court proceedings and understand how drug possession laws apply to your situation, providing useful information that could reduce or remove your sentencing.
Document The Details Of Your Arrest
As soon as possible, write down everything you remember about your arrest, including the officers' badge numbers, patrol car numbers, the agency they work for, and any other relevant details.
If there were witnesses present during your arrest, get their contact information. Their testimony may be valuable in supporting your case.
Possible Defense Strategies For Cocaine Possession Charges
With the right attorney, your legal counsel can use various strategies and techniques to challenge the charges and seek a favorable outcome. Remember that each case is unique, and understanding these defense strategies will help craft a customized plan to address your specific circumstances.
Challenging The Legality Of The Search And Seizure
If the police unlawfully searched and seized you in a nightclub or bar, you may be able to challenge the legality of their actions. The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, which means that law enforcement must have probable cause or a warrant before conducting an investigation.
Simply dancing, drinking, and hanging out in a nightclub or bar doesn’t constitute probable cause for a search and seizure.
Disputing Control Or Knowledge Of The Cocaine
The prosecution must prove that the defendant had simple or constructive possession of the cocaine. Without this hard information, your lawyer may be able to dispute these claims.
For example, if someone drops a bag of cocaine near you and law enforcement sees you near it, that doesn’t necessarily mean you were in possession. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help defend against this charge by reviewing the evidence and arguing that you had no knowledge or control over the drugs.
Innocent Possession Or Operating Under Duress
Operating under duress claims that another person forced or coerced the defendant to possess the cocaine. For example, if someone threatens the defendant's life or the lives of their loved ones if they don't carry the drugs, the defendant could argue that they acted under duress.
Innocent possession, on the other hand, argues that the defendant had a legitimate reason for possessing the cocaine, such as intending to dispose of it or confiscate it from someone else. In these cases, the defendant must prove that they didn’t intend to maintain control of the drugs or use them for illegal purposes.
Arguing Police Misconduct
Police misconduct is inappropriate behavior by law enforcement during a drug investigation. If the officer planted evidence or used overly excessive force during the arrest, any evidence obtained during the violation may be deemed inadmissible in court.
It’s important to note that proving an arrest or police misconduct requires extensive evidence and legal expertise.
Exploring Alternative Consequence Options
When faced with a cocaine possession arrest, your lawyer may suggest alternative options to jail or fines. These alternatives can provide a more rehabilitative approach and help individuals reintegrate into society while addressing the root cause of their drug use.
If you’re guilty of cocaine possession, a plea bargain may be worth considering. It’s an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.
For example, if you were arrested for cocaine possession but didn’t intend to distribute or sell the drug, a plea bargain could lead to a lesser sentence or probation in lieu of a severe prison term.
It’s important to note, however, that critics argue that these agreements can result in coerced guilty pleas and cover for corrupt prosecutor behavior.
Diversion programs allow individuals to avoid a criminal conviction and instead enter a treatment or education program. These programs are only typically available to first-time offenders.
Some diversion programs also include drug treatment courts, which provide expedited participation in treatment for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems. Successful program completion may result in the charges being dropped or the sentence being reduced.
Diversion programs have shown a reduction in subsequent convictions and criminal justice costs.
Call Weinstein Legal To Handle Your Drug Possession Charges
If you or someone you know has been arrested for cocaine possession, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle the case. When fighting possession charges, time is of the essence, and having experienced representation from the start can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
Don't fight your possession charges alone – contact Weinstein Legal today to start your case file now.