If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, you may be going through a tough time in your life. Being arrested and charged with a crime can be embarrassing, stressful and/or scary for most people. When you are charged with a crime, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to hire a skilled defense lawyer who can help you.
If you cannot afford an attorney, a public defender will be appointed to you, but public defenders often have a large number of clients to represent and are often underpaid. Hiring your own lawyer allows you to select a lawyer that you feel is skilled and competent for the type of charges you are facing, and allows you to get a lawyer who is focused on your case.
If you are facing a felony drug charge, you may have many questions. Read on to learn more about the charges you are facing and how a skilled defense lawyer can help offer you the best chance at beating the felony drug charge or charges you may be facing.
Why Should You Take Drug Charges Seriously?
If you have been charged with a felony drug charge, you need to take the charges against you seriously. Being charged with a felony is a huge deal and if you are convicted, it can negatively impact your life in many different ways. Here are a few of the key reasons why you need to take a felony seriously and work hard to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
A Felony Can Impact Your Freedom
One of the reasons why you need to take drug charges so seriously is because a felony can impact your freedom. Not only are you facing potential jail time if you are convicted, but you may also find yourself facing parole or probation.
On top of this, depending on the state you reside in, felons may not be able to vote. Finally, felons are not able to register or own handguns. You give up some of your freedom as soon as you are convicted of a felony charge.
A Felony May Impact Your Ability to Get a Job
Another way that a felony drug charge can impact your life is by limiting the type of job you are able to secure. Many jobs that require you to have licenses, including nurses and bartenders, can be impossible for a felon to work in, as you may not be able to get your license with a felony on your background.
Other jobs, such as teaching positions or positions in financial institutions, automatically preclude felons from working with them. Felons often struggle to find gainful employment and may have limited work options after being convicted.
A Felony Can Impact Housing
One of the lesser-known ways that a felony can impact your life is by limiting where you can live. If you are looking to rent a house or an apartment, chances are, the rental agency will run your background. While some companies overlook non-violent crimes, violent or drug-related crimes typically preclude you from being approved. This makes it challenging to find a great place to live once you get back on your feet.
A Felony Can Limit Your Ability to Travel
The final reason why you should fight a drug-related felony charge is that a felony conviction can limit your ability to travel. Some countries, such as Canada, will restrict entry to felons and/or those convicted of drug-related crimes. Other countries may also restrict you from entering their company, which limits where you can travel.
How Can a Skilled Defense Lawyer Help You When You Are First Charged?
It is strongly recommended that you hire a skilled defense lawyer to help you fight felony drug charges as soon as you are charged with a crime. This is because a skilled lawyer can get to work quickly, helping you out with many different things when you are first charged. Some of the various ways that a skilled defense lawyer can help you out with when you are first charged include:
They Can Arrange Your Surrender
In some cases, you are arrested on the spot for drug charges. In other cases, you are being investigated for a crime before you are arrested. If you are being investigated, chances are, the district attorney will reach out to you to let you know they have decided to charge you, and a warrant has been issued. They often give you the ability to surrender on your own before they send officers to come get you. A great lawyer could work with you to help arrange for your surrender.
They Can Help You Get Bail Set
Another way that a skilled defense lawyer can help you when you are first charged with a drug-related crime is by helping you to get bail or to get your bail reduced. Different cities and counties operate differently when it comes to bail. However, if no bail is granted or if bail is set too high initially, a criminal defense attorney can request a bail hearing.
At this hearing, your lawyer will make a case for reducing bail or getting bail set, helping you to get out of jail while you are waiting for your trial date.
They Can Help You Understand the Conditions of Your Release
One of the lesser-known ways that a great criminal defense attorney can help you if you are facing a felony charge is by helping you to understand the conditions of your release.
If you are released on bail while on a drug charge, you may have specific restrictions on you, including the inability to travel out of state and possible drug testing. Your attorney can help to ensure that you understand the conditions of your release, so you do not violate them and find yourself back in jail.
They Can Help You to Fully Understand the Charges You Are Facing
One of the more overlooked aspects of how a criminal defense attorney can help you is by helping you to fully understand the charges you are facing. Most of us do not have legal degrees, and as such, we may not fully understand the exact crime we are charged with.
You may not understand the criteria that had to be met to charge you with a specific crime, or how one crime differs from another. A great lawyer can help you to understand the charges you are facing and the potential punishment for that specific crime.
They Can Get to Work Collecting Evidence For Your Case
Finally, a great criminal defense attorney will get to work collecting evidence for your case once they are hired. Hiring an attorney early on is extremely important for this reason alone. If you wait too long, witnesses may change their story and camera footage can be lost.
Witness and camera footage information can be invaluable in potentially providing you with an alibi or helping you fight the charges against you. Unfortunately, once that information is lost, it is lost forever, so getting an attorney who can find and preserve that information is invaluable.
What Punishments Could You Be Facing For a Felony Drug Case?
If you are charged with a felony drug case, you need to be concerned. This is because felony drug cases have some of the stiffest punishments around. Most states have different levels of felony drug charges, such as a level 1 felony drug charge, based on the specific drug and the number of drugs you had on you when you were arrested. However, every type of felony drug charge carries some negative punishment. Those punishments include:
Jail or Prison Time
You can be sentenced to county jail if the amount of your punishment is a year or less. If you are sentenced to be confined for one year and one day or longer, you are sentenced to prison. You can be sentenced to either jail or prison, depending on the length of your punishment. Felony drug charges can carry anywhere from a six-month sentence to a life sentence. First-time offenders often have shorter sentences, whereas repeat offenders may be facing longer sentences.
In addition to being sent to jail or prison, you may also be charged with a fine. The amount of the fine can vary based on the drug charges you are facing, how many past criminal convictions you have, and what the judge ultimately decides. Most drug charges carry a minimum of $1000 fine with a maximum fine that can amount to several hundred thousand dollars. In addition to this, you may be ordered to pay court costs and/or restitution.
Parole or Probation
Finally, you can be sentenced to parole or probation as part of your sentence. Many felons state that parole or probation is actually harder to comply with compared to being in prison. You have to keep your nose straight and ensure you meet all of the demands of your parole or probation officer. If you fail to do so, you may find yourself heading back to jail or prison.
What Options Can An Attorney Take If You Are Facing Felony Drug Charges?
If you are facing felony drug charges, you may find yourself wondering what options a skilled criminal defense attorney has for getting you out of the bing you have found yourself in. A criminal defense attorney will do one of four things to help you with the charges you are facing. These options include:
Advocate to Get the Charges You Are Facing Dismissed
You have rights, even when you are suspected of a crime. If the police improperly stopped you or entered your home without a warrant, they may be violating the law. If they did not read you your rights when you were arrested, or they arrested you without proper cause, they may also have violated the law.
The first thing a great criminal defense attorney will do is ensure that procedure and law were followed when you were arrested. If this was not followed, an attorney will advocate with the district attorney or even a judge, to get the charges you are facing dismissed.
Fighting to Get the Charges Reduced
One of the first things that a great criminal defense attorney will do to help you if you are facing felony drug charges is to fight to get the charges against you reduced. They may talk to the district attorney’s office and convince them that they do not meet the legal requirements to charge you with a felony versus a misdemeanor or they may take their case before a judge and plead with the judge to get the charges reduced. Any time you can get felony charges reduced to a misdemeanor, it is considered a win.
Helping to Get a Plea Deal For Your Case
Another way that a criminal defense attorney can help you is by helping you to get a plea deal. Many district attorneys will agree to reduce charges or even throw out some charges if you agree to just plead guilty to one or more charges you are facing. This saves the state a lengthy and costly trial.
As such, they may reward you for taking a deal by offering you a lesser sentence or by having you pled to lesser charges. A great lawyer can work to get you the best possible plea deal.
Taking Your Case to Trial
The final way that a criminal defense attorney can help you if you are charged with a felony drug offense is by taking your case to trial. In some cases, you have no other option but to face a judge or a jury. A skilled criminal defense attorney will offer up defenses or evidence that discredits the case that the state puts on against you. This is the best way to raise reasonable doubt and hopefully help you to be found not guilty of the charges you are facing.
What Defenses Can An Attorney Bring Up to Help You With a Drug Charge?
If you are charged with a felony drug charge, one of the ways that a lawyer can help you if your case goes to trial is by raising defenses. It is important to understand that each and every drug case is unique, and there are many different factors that play into you being arrested and charged with a specific crime.
As such, not every defense is ideal for every person’s case. A great attorney will identify the defenses that are applicable to your case. Some of the defenses that may be raised include:
Violation of Your Rights
One of the defenses that may be raised is that your rights were violated. Police cannot pull you over or barge into your home simply because they have a gut feeling you may have illegal drugs. They need a reasonable cause, and may even need a search warrant. As such, if drugs were illegally found in your car, in your home or on your person, and there was no reasonable cause, this can be a viable defense to the charges you are facing.
Lack of Possession
Another defense that criminal defense lawyers often raise for drug charges is lack of possession. For example, if drugs are found in a car, your lawyer may argue that they are not yours. You did not possess them on your body, and they may be someone else’s. Ultimately, it may be up to a judge or jury to determine if they think the drugs are yours and whether you are guilty.
The Substance Is Not an Illegal Drug
One of the defenses that are not frequently used is that the substance you were arrested for was not illegal. Many police departments have gotten better at testing drugs, so by the time your case goes to trial, they know what type of drug you have.
However, if the drugs were not properly tested, or you have a valid prescription for prescription drugs, your lawyer may be able to argue that the substance you were arrested with was not illegal.
Issues With the Chain of Custody
When a police officer takes possession of drugs, they must follow a proper chain of custody. Typically, the officer has to secure the drugs in an evidence bag, and anyone who touches the drugs, including the person responsible for testing it, must wear gloves and must notate the chain of command.
If the drugs are not properly secured, it can be hard to prove that what the officer took out of your car is really the drug that was tested. If there are issues with the chain of custody, a criminal defense attorney will raise this defense.
The final common defense that a criminal defense attorney may raise if you are charged with a felony drug charge is entrapment. The police cannot ask you to do something and then arrest you for it. For example, an undercover police officer cannot simply hand you a bag of cocaine and ask you to hold it, only to have officers waiting to pounce and arrest you for drug possession. If you are entrapped, a criminal defense attorney will argue that point in court.
If you have found yourself in the unfortunate situation of being charged with a felony, you need to find a skilled defense lawyer who can help you with your case. If you are facing a felony drug charge, Panella Law Firm has the experience and the know-how to help you win your case. Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case with one of our lawyers and let us put together a plan to defend you against the charges you are facing. Call us today to get started.