Are There Any Alternative Programs For First Time Drug Offenders?
My goal typically for first time offenders is to try to get them into an alternative program. There is typically the opportunity, with marijuana especially, and occasionally with some of the more serious drugs but not as much. But we’ll have the opportunity for a period of time for the prosecution to be suspended, so the state will give the client a chance to participate in substance abuse counseling, drug counseling, alcohol counseling or whatever is appropriate for that person, and they’ll have to be testing clean for an extended period of time.
As long as they’re able to participate in the program, go to the classes, drop their samples as required and be clean, then at the end of it, their charges can be completely dismissed as a result of successfully completing that type of diversion. That’s the most common type of diversion we see for first time offenders. Depending on the case, a second time offender may be able to go through that process again if enough time has passed and some other issues have presented themselves.
In my experience, it’s always been worth trying to get that type of resolution, especially when we’re talking about personal possession, non-repeat offenders and small amounts of drugs as well.
What Are Some Potential Defenses In Drug-Related Cases?
A popular defense for a drug charge is constructive possession, especially if there’s the likelihood that the drugs belong to somebody else and the defendant wasn’t actually in possession of them. The arguments of constructive possession are very technical, and I’ve done several trials as to whether an individual could actually have possessed the drugs being charged with.
There are a host of search and seizure issues that typically present themselves in drug cases, and the typical things that present themselves are also not uncommon in other criminal cases, whether Miranda rights were appropriately read or people actually gave consent to a search. A lot of times, officers will testify that they were given consent, and then there is really no documentation of that, and there are often battles over whether consent was actually given. There may be the ability to attack search warrants, including lack of specificity, such as a search warrant that doesn’t really provide the judge with the necessary facts and specifics to offer a warrant.
In drug cases, we see a lot of litigation around that initial contact and the initial investigation, and we take it from there. But there is a lot of good work to be done in painting the bigger picture as well. In one of my recent cases, I worked closely with the prosecutor to flush out if they really believed that they had a sale case. Even though they charged it that way, they were able to produce a lot of evidence to the contrary to explain some of the Indicia of Sale that the prosecution looked at initially that supported their belief that drug selling was going on.
In fact, we were able to debunk their initial belief, whether the cash on hand and the amount of drugs equated to a sale, by painting a bigger picture of who the individual is, what was going on in their life and who the other people were who had access and control over certain evidence. This changed the prosecution’s view of the case, and so much of this work involves having an attorney that can get the audience of the prosecutor in a way that allows a bigger picture to be shown and a more in-depth explanation to be presented while doing this in such a way that it doesn’t expose your client to any further damage in the charging or prosecution process.
What Sets You And Your Firm Apart In Handling Drug-Related Cases?
First and foremost, again it’s experience. I have been working with these types of cases for almost a decade here in Maricopa County and outside of Maricopa County. I’ve seen these types of cases and worked on them, first as a prosecutor and now as a defense attorney. I’ve handled possession cases, sale cases, prescription cases and forgery-type cases. I think that experience is first and foremost, but also continuing to stay on top of the changing landscape and legislation in these cases is very important.
It’s really important to know what the current state of the law is with regard to so many things, whether it’s medical marijuana, threshold amounts, what courts are upholding with regard to search and seizure, and Indicia of Sale when it comes to those cases. You really need an understanding of all the nuances of these cases because when someone’s talking about whether they want to hire me, the best thing I can do is show them that we’re able to analyze and evaluate their case in a way that makes us the most prepared and most equipped to get a good resolution.
On top of that, with all the technical and legal background based on my experience as a prosecutor and my relationships with those officers of the court as well, I have the ability to sit down and talk with these people and have a good relationship and good reputation with them.
I’ve been able to get information in front of particular prosecutors that I may not have been able to otherwise. I may be able to persuade them to take a closer look, to extend our time limits, to have some meetings and then to really dig into the case, and this may make the difference between a prison resolution at the outset to a probation resolution at the end of the day.
Essentially, what I try to tell people is that we’re going to turn over every stone, look under every rock, analyze the case and see every last opportunity that we can to attack the case and try to improve our situation. That’s really something that I’ve been able to do in these types of cases.
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