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Being arrested is always a bit frightening, especially if you haven’t had run-ins with the law before. If you’ve been charged with drug possession, you might wonder what’s next.
It’s important to follow some simple steps and strategies to protect yourself and your rights. Taking this approach will also maximize the defense strategies available to you.
You can make it through this legal process as long as you have the right game plan and help. Here’s what you need to know.
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Understand Your Rights
As you are arrested, a police officer will read you your rights. It’s easy to overlook this disclosure in a tense situation, but it’s vital to pay attention. These rights are there to protect you and ensure you get a fair trial and strong defense.
The primary rights in the Miranda warning are the right to remain silent and the right to request an attorney. Having an attorney with you during questioning can help you avoid incriminating yourself or making statements you regret.
The best practice is to say, “I want an attorney” or “I am exercising my right to silence.” In both cases, the police officer will immediately stop the questioning — or if they don’t, the issue could be thrown out.
Did the Arrest Process Make Sense?
While police officers sometimes act like they can do anything, the law limits their actions. They cannot stop anyone without reason, and there are legal standards for everything from asking your identity to searching you.
If you feel something is going wrong, pay close attention to what’s happening. These details need to be relayed to your criminal defense lawyer.
Sometimes a police officer will claim they did things that they didn’t or that they acted in a specific way when that’s not the case. Fortunately, there’s usually evidence, such as a body camera, that will bring out the truth.
Processing at the Police Station
After you’re arrested, the police will take you to the police station for processing. This involves identifying yourself and surrendering your possessions. You will be given a voucher or voucher number so your belongings can be returned to you when you are released.
Any illegal items you’re carrying will be confiscated and not returned. They will likely be used as evidence in the case against you.
You will also be photographed and fingerprinted. This process takes several hours, much of which you’ll spend in a holding cell. After the processing, you may be released, or you might be allowed a phone call. This is a good time to contact family or a drug lawyer.
If you aren’t released, the police will hold you until your arraignment, which should happen the next day.
Before the arraignment, you’ll speak to your attorney. This will either be a private lawyer, if you called one, or a public defender. Your criminal defense lawyer will help you understand the charges against you, along with any plea deal the prosecutor has offered.
You’ll work with your attorney to decide how to proceed. You’ll then hear the charges read as you stand before the judge and enter a plea. If bail is set, you’ll find out how much.
Generally, the arraignment is a quick process because there is a long list of cases to get through. If you have family or friends at the court, they can vouch for you and help you get a better bail offer.
If you post bail, you’ll be released but required to attend future court hearings on the charges.
Understanding South Dakota Drug Charges
What kinds of drug charges will you face in South Dakota?
If you are arrested for weed possession, you’ll face criminal charges based on how much you had on you. Controlled dangerous substances (CDS) are regulated by schedule. Schedule I is the most dangerous, and Schedule V (5) is considered the least dangerous. You’ll want to know what category your drug possession falls in, so you understand the potential consequences.
For instance, heroin possession is a Schedule I charge, where illegal possession of Lorazepam is a Schedule IV (4) charge.
In general, possession of a CDS without a valid prescription is a Class 4 felony, and you could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000. Sometimes there are alternative sentencing programs that treat addiction and help you get back on track.
Being charged with drug possession is a serious life-altering event. That’s why having a criminal defense lawyer in your corner is essential!
Common Drug Possession Defenses
What are some ways you can defend yourself against a drug charge? An experienced drug lawyer knows that the case isn’t necessarily cut-and-dried.
The first focus will be on the arrest process itself. Your lawyer will look into whether you were stopped for lawful reasons, if the police officer had a right to search you, and whether your rights were violated. The criminal defense attorney will also look into whether you were entrapped.
Prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were knowingly in possession of an illegal substance. If you didn’t know the drugs were there, or the drugs don’t belong to you, that could be a defense. For instance, if drugs were found near a group of people, the police have to prove who the drugs belonged to.
Finally, the police have to show that the substance is actually an illegal drug. They can’t assume based on appearance. There also has to be a clear chain of custody from arrest to trial. If some of the drugs are missing, or they can’t be accounted for, the case could fail.
Get the Representation You Need
As you can see, drug possession is a serious charge and the consequences can impact your life for years to come. Make sure you get a good criminal defense attorney so that you fully understand your options and can craft a strong defense.
Have you been charged with drug possession? Contact us for a consultation today!
Criminal Law Resources
Learn about your rights and how we approach criminal defense cases here at Alvine & Weidenaar.
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