Fighting Tough Cases – Marijuana Possession
No matter how bad you think your case is, the prosecution has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and its evidence cannot be the result of a violation of your constitutional rights.
In some cases that may seem hopeless to you, the prosecution will be unable to prove its case. Even if you admitted to the police that you had a bag of marijuana in the car, and they found it after you gave them permission to search the car, the state’s evidence may still have fatal flaws.
Before you to go to trial, the state must give you its evidence – if you ask for it. The evidence should include the reports of all the police involved in the arrest, the analysis of the substances found in your car that the state alleges are the illegal drugs, and often a video of the stop, questioning, search and arrest. Problems with any of that evidence could weaken the state’s case and result in the prosecution accepting a plea to a lesser charge or, in some cases, even dismissal of the case.
The prosecution’s problem may be at the beginning of the process – maybe the police had no right to stop your car in the first place. That may mean that everything that happened after the stop was the result of a violation of your constitutional rights and cannot be used to prove your guilt.
Maybe after properly stopping your car, they questioned you in an improper manner. Whether they did can be a tricky question. The problem may with the type of questions they asked, or that they required you to remain and answer questions when they had no constitutionally permissible basis to do so, or other issues. As with the improper stop, if the questioning was improper, it may have been a violation of your constitutional rights and the state may not be able to use your answers or the marijuana they found based on your answers to prove its case.
Another possibility is that the evidence was not handled properly after it was collected by the police. For example, if the container with the evidence was mislabeled by the laboratory that tested it, the result of the test may not be available for use at trial because it may not be clear that the substance tested was the same as the material taken from your car.
While law enforcement usually follows its procedures correctly, everybody makes mistakes. You won’t know whether they did in your case until you get the state’s evidence and review it with an attorney who knows how courts have treated cases with facts like yours.
We have seen cases where law enforcement has made such mistakes. When we have shown the prosecutor the problems those facts create for the state’s case, the prosecutor has often been willing to accept a plea to a less serious offense. If not, in appropriate cases, we use the problems with the state’s evidence as the basis of a vigorous defense at trial.