Many law enforcement agencies and police departments put a great deal of time, resources and manpower into the war on drugs. As a result, people involved with marijuana, cocaine, heroin, meth or other drugs often find themselves facing serious criminal charges unexpectedly after their home is searched on a tip or when the vehicle is searched after a traffic stop. In many situations, however, addiction plays a role in the drug-related activity and stiff criminal penalties may not be what is needed to make a difference in the defendants' activities. Arguing a strong defense to get the charges reduced and enable the person to participate in a treatment program may be a more successful result.
Detectives from the Sheriff's Office of Passaic County recently made arrests of three people from Pennsylvania. The people were allegedly involved in the purchase of drugs. According to the report, the detectives first noticed the vehicle because it had Pennsylvania license plates and was circling the block. After they witnessed what they believed was drug dealing, they pulled the vehicle over. The three people in the car were all in their twenties. The two men and one woman now face charges of possession of heroin with intent to distribute.
Although marijuana possession, sale, or distribution can also have serious penalties, crimes involving heroin are often more serious because heroin is typically viewed as a more dangerous drug under state law. Possession and intent to distribute of heroin can carry a sentence of significant jail time, as well as a hefty fine. Many law enforcement officials try to argue that all of the people arrested in a single incident were involved in the crimes in the same way and at the same level. This is not always the case, however, and distinguishing one defendant's actions from the other defendants in a group arrest can be a way to reduce the charges.
In addition, depending on the circumstances, there are many other criminal defenses to drug charges. A defendant can potentially argue lack of knowledge or lack of intent that the drugs were in his possession. In some cases, the quantity of the drug possessed may be insufficient for charges under state law. Finally, the method that the police used to obtain the incriminating evidence can be relevant and a defendant could potentially argue that there was an unlawful search or seizure.
Source: The Record, "Passaic sheriffs arrest there Pennsylvania residents in Paterson heroin bust," Joe Malinconico, March 28, 2014