Do Most People Assume They Will be Convicted in a Drug- Related Case?
- Some attorneys, rather than clients, tend to assume convictions on drug cases, which is why they often push their clients to pursue plea deals instead.
- This can have negative repercussions for defendants, especially if they have immigration cases as well.
- Drug case defendants often hire defense attorneys after arraignment. However, the earlier an attorney is brought onto the case, the more they can help you.
- You should give your attorney all relevant information about your case, especially if there’s anything inaccurate in the police report, and/or if you have any extra conditions that may affect their strategy (i.e., if you have an immigration case, or if you have professional licensure you want to try to protect).
- Many drug cases are settled with plea deals, but this is not always the best solution for the defendant. The exception is most mandatory minimum cases, for which plea deals are often (though not always) the better option.
- Courts are often more lenient toward first-time drug offenders, though there are also other factors (such as whether the case involves a smaller quantity of drugs for “personal use”, versus distribution).
I don’t think that many clients in drug-related cases assume that they will be convicted. If anything, it’s the opposite. If anyone assumes a conviction in a drug-related case, it’s usually attorneys.
This can sometimes lead to negative outcomes for drug case clients. One thing I’ve noticed in my immigration practice is that a lot of people have drug convictions that they could have fought, but their attorney at the time assumed that they would be convicted and essentially advised them to give up by pleading guilty.
In these cases, the drug rulings had double the negative effect on my clients, because in addition to the initial consequences of the conviction, it then wound up hurting their immigration case down the line. Once they come to me, it’s possible that we will be able to vacate the conviction, but it’s also possible that we won’t. In either case, their immigration bid is definitely going to be a lot harder at that point.
So, if you are facing any kind of drug charges, you need to consult with an attorney that actually knows what they are doing. A knowledgeable attorney will understand the potential complications of a drug conviction (especially the implications for your immigration case, if you have an immigration case) and will try to find a way to fight that conviction. It’s very important that you find an attorney like that to avoid hindering your future.
There may be options available that a less knowledgeable or determined attorney would not think to pursue. You owe it to yourself to at least try to seek out the type of attorney who will try to fight your charges.
At What Point in a Drug Case do You Typically Get Hired by a Defendant?
I would say that in drug cases, I typically get hired after arraignment, but people hire me at all different stages of their cases.
Ideally, if you are facing drug charges, you want an attorney as soon as possible. The earlier you get an attorney on your case, the more potential options there are in terms of how you want to litigate the case.
If the charges are minor enough and an attorney is brought on early enough in the process, you might even be able to get the case dismissed pre-arraignment or get it into diversion before the case is even arraigned. This would mean that if you comply with all the terms of a given diversion program, the charges will not even show up on your record.
Of course, diversion is somewhat unusual, but you want to at least be aware of all potential options in your case.
What Details Should Clients Share with You in Order to Craft an Effective Defense for a Drug Case?
There are many details that it’s essential for a client to share with me as their defense attorney that make it possible for me to craft them a successful defense in their drug case. It is generally best to share all details of a case with your attorney, but there are some pieces of information that are absolutely essential to have right off the bat.
First of all, as a person being charged, you need to read over the police report detailing your charges. If there is literally anything in that police report that is incorrect, I need to know about it. This is especially true if there were any other witnesses to the events in the report, who may be able to verify that the information written down by the officer is incorrect.
The other major thing that I need to know about as a defense attorney in a drug case is anything that is unusual about your situation.
Drug convictions, for example, have much worse potential consequences if you are not a US citizen than if you are a US citizen. Therefore, as your attorney in a drug case, I need to know about your citizenship. I also need to know about other things that may impact the effects of a potential conviction, like professional licensing, security clearances, and any other arena where you would face additional consequences that not everyone would face from a drug conviction.
This knowledge is important for me because I will proceed to craft my defense strategy with those additional consequences in mind.
Are Most Drug Related Cases Settled with Plea Deals? Is This Always the Best Option?
I would say that most drug cases are settled with plea deals, and it is not always the best option.
In fact, because there is usually a backlog in getting alleged drug tests processed, it is often better to try to get the case to trial as quickly as possible rather than taking a plea deal. If the Commonwealth is not ready to go to trial because the substance hasn’t been tested, then there is a decent chance you will be able to get the case dismissed.
This is less true for more serious cases because they will often prioritize getting the testing done if they are talking your case more seriously. However, for a first-time offender, and even for a second-time offender, assuming it’s a small amount of alleged drugs we’re dealing with, the case is less likely to be a priority and you are more likely to be able to just rush it to trial and get a turnout.
For more serious cases, I’d say a plea is more likely to end up being the correct option.
This is particularly true in cases where there is some kind of mandatory minimum that you are facing, such as School Zone or trafficking charges. A mandatory minimum charge is not something to play around with and may change the circumstances such that it makes the most sense to take a plea to a lesser offense that doesn’t involve a mandatory minimum. In doing so, you can get probation or a shorter jail term than you would get with the mandatory minimum charge.
However, there can still be serious downsides to taking a plea deal, even in mandatory minimum cases. In particular, I’ve had immigration clients who wound up spending more time in immigration detention because of their plea conviction than they would have spent in jail on a mandatory minimum if they had just taken the case to trial and lost.
So, they didn’t actually get any benefit by taking a plea on a case that ended up hurting them in the immigration context. So, it really depends on your own personal situation what the best option is.
Are Courts Generally Going to be More Lenient Towards a First Time Drug Offender?
Generally, yes, Courts are generally more lenient toward first-time drug offenders than repeat offenders.
However, this depends on many other factors in addition to whether it’s a first offense. For example, it also depends on whether the case involves possession of drugs for personal use versus possession of drugs for distribution or with the intent to distribute, both of which have to do with the amount of drugs involved.
In personal use cases, especially for first-time offenders, the Court is likely going to be more lenient than it would be in a similar distribution case. The Court would be more likely, for example, to offer diversion as a potential option in a personal use, first-time offender case.
Generally, there are multiple factors that influence leniency, though whether the charge is a first-time offense and whether it involved a quantity of drugs classified as personal use or distribution are both very important factors.
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