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Common defenses to drug charges

Drug charges in Georgia can carry stiff penalties and a lifetime of consequences. For this and other reasons, it is important for those facing drug charges to carefully consider all available defenses.

The two most common defenses involve challenging the constitutionality of a search and arguing that the state failed to prove drugs belonged to the accused.

Constitutional challenges

Every person has a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In most cases, police need a search warrant supported by probable cause to conduct a search. For example, the police cannot search your home because they have a “gut feeling” there are drugs. Instead, a judge ordinarily must sign a warrant based on probable cause that there is contraband or evidence of a crime in the home.

Under limited circumstances, police may conduct a search without a warrant. For example, police may search a motor vehicle without a warrant based on probable cause. But, absent probable cause or another basis for the search, any search of your vehicle is illegal.

Whether a search occurs with or without a warrant, an accused can challenge the constitutionality of the search. If a court finds that police conducted an unconstitutional search, the court generally must suppress evidence found in the search. Once a court suppresses evidence, the prosecution is often unable to prove its case, resulting in the charges being dismissed.

Challenging possession

Another common defense to drug charges involves arguing that the accused did not own or possess the drugs. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that drugs belonged to or that the accused were knowingly possessed the drugs.

Consider an example: police find drugs in an accused person’s car. A potential defense may be that another person was recently in the vehicle and that the drugs may belong to that person.

Considering the substantial consequences of a drug conviction, it is important that anyone accused of a drug crime consult with a knowledgeable attorney to evaluate all potential defenses and hold the prosecution to their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.