What should I do if the police found drugs that weren't mine during a car search?
UPDATED: February 2, 2020
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If the police found drugs that didn't belong to you in your car, start by gathering as much information as possible about the facts and history of your case. You should then review those facts with a criminal defense attorney. Since drugs were found in the car you were driving, you'll need to make an extra effot to defend yourself, and you will need to hire a private criminal lawyer who you can provide with the proper resources to defend you vigorously. Things you want to think about and develop information about to defend yourself against the drug charges include:
- Who put the drugs in your car? Do you have a name or address, or any proof or witnesses?
- Do you have a theory of why someone would hide drugs in your car?
- Have you let anyone else use your car recently?
- Is this even your car, or did you just borrow it from a “friend”?
Not surprisingly, district attorneys often hear, “the drugs were someone else’s.” If you want to convince the D.A. or at least one person on the jury that the drugs that led to your arrest were not yours and you are innocent, you probably need to put a little extra legwork into your case. Once you have your information together, review everything about your drug charges with an experienced criminal attorney. This means you need to discuss with him what you did before and during the traffic stop and car search that resulted in your drug arrest.
Car Searches and Probable Cause
The before and during your drugs arrest discussion with your criminal attorney should also focus on why the cops subjected you to a car search. In order for the police to perform a car search without your consent, they have to have more information than “I had a drug history.” Officers generally cannot search your car unless they have some probable cause to do so.
If the officers cannot articulate factors involved in the car search and the drug arrest that amount to probable cause, they conducted an illegal car search. You may be able to win a suppression hearing and have the drugs case against you thrown out.
If the officers can list other factors involved in the car search and drug arrest to win a suppression hearing, other options may also be available. Wait for a drug lab. After they are arrested for drug charges, a surprising number of people plead guilty before a drug testing lab ever confirms that the substances found were actually controlled substances, like cocaine. If the stuff found wasn’t actually drugs, then the drug charges against you will be dropped.
District Attorneys and Drug Arrest Cases
If you can’t develop factors in your favor, you may have a hard time convincing a jury of your innocence, but you may still be able to convince a D.A. Many district attorney offices will at least consider polygraphs during the early stages of a criminal case. Offer to take and pay for a polygraph with an operator of their choice. This is literally putting your money where your mouth is. Some D.A.’s will take this gesture to mean that you are serious about showing your innocence. The other advantage for you is that if you fail, the results cannot be used against you in court. Not all D.A.’s offices accept polygraphs, so consult with a criminal attorney in your jurisdiction to see what the practices are where you were arrested.
"Proving" Your Drug Arrest Case
Technically speaking, the criminal justice system requires the state to prove that you committed a crime. However, when you are in sole possession of the vehicle where drugs are found, their burden is pretty much met. Many people take a gamble with jury trial thinking, “Why not fight it? All you need is to convince one juror. The prosecutor needs to convince all 12.” Based on the facts of your drugs arrest, that’s a bit easier said than done.
If you can gather information demonstrating that the drugs were actually someone else’s, then you may want to gamble with a jury trial. Before you decide to take a plea or request a jury trial, review all of your options with an experienced criminal defense attorney. You need to understand the trends, risks, and benefits associated with each option in your jurisdiction before you enter a plea.