You have multiple options for how to beat drug trafficking charges if you were accused of or are under investigation for this offense in Minnesota. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can review your case to identify potential defenses. You can also take certain steps to help your attorney build a solid defense and increase your chances of beating drug trafficking charges. These steps include understanding your rights, remaining calm, properly preserving all available evidence, and cooperating with your lawyer.
How to Beat Drug Trafficking Charges
Understand Your Rights
The law grants you rights that protect you at every step of the criminal justice system. Specific rights apply while law enforcement officers are questioning, detaining, or arresting you. Knowing these rights will enable you to avoid costly mistakes while engaging with law enforcement officers.
Arresting authorities often seem friendly, and may even claim to be on your side or just trying to help you. However, they may be using such behavior as a strategy to get suspects to divulge self-incriminating information. Be sure to invoke your right to remain silent when faced with such a situation. Once you invoke this right, you won’t have to respond to any questions regarding the charge from the police.
The law also accords you with a right to a lawyer. Contact your lawyer soon after getting arrested or before the questioning session. Answer questions only if your lawyer is present. Your lawyer will guide you on how to answer questions without disclosing information that might incriminate you with the drug trafficking charges.
Many people get scared and confused when getting arrested for a serious crime like drug trafficking. Due to fear and confusion, some become overwhelmed and take actions that could worsen their situation. They may, for instance, resist the arrest or fight with the arresting officer.
Staying calm is the best way to respond to an arrest. Do not engage in a physical confrontation with law enforcement officers. This consideration applies even when the arresting officers are hostile towards you.
Resisting arrest or fighting with police officers might disadvantage you in court. It might also give rise to additional charges separate from the drug trafficking charges. You can turn the odds in your favor by recording their unlawful conduct. Ask someone at the arrest scene to record the officers’ actions if you cannot do it yourself.
The Fourth Amendment bars police officers from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Be sure to tell the officers that you disagree with the search if they proceed to search your property without a valid warrant.
Criminal defense lawyers usually contest the legality of searches and seizures in drug cases. Your lawyer can successfully render the evidence presented by law enforcement officers inadmissible by showing their conduct contravened your Fourth Amendment rights. Doing this might force the prosecution to drop the charges against you.
Hire and Cooperate with Your Criminal Defense Lawyer
It would be best if a defense lawyer is physically present when you are getting arrested. That is, however, not always possible. Get a lawyer involved as soon as you can. You can do that immediately after posting bail and leaving the police station.
Your lawyer will have enough time to develop a robust defense if you involve him or her early in the process. The lawyer might discuss the information and evidence the police ignored with the prosecutor. The lawyer might convince the prosecutor to drop the charges in some instances.
A criminal defense lawyer who has handled many drug trafficking charges knows the defense strategy that will work for your case. Such a lawyer will know the state and federal drug trafficking laws relevant to your case. The lawyer knows the evidence to collect and the laws to focus on to secure a win for you.
The best you can do when you have such a lawyer in your corner is to be a keen listener and team player. Listening keenly to your lawyer and heeding his or her advice can increase your chances of beating drug trafficking charges.
Properly Preserve All Available Evidence
The prosecutors will be working tirelessly to build a strong case against you. You need to compile as much evidence as possible to defend yourself. The defense strategy you select will determine the type of evidence to collect. That is why you should work with a criminal defense lawyer from the beginning. Your lawyer will advise you on the evidence you need to collect and preserve.
You can, for instance, compile and preserve test results showing that the substances in question are not controlled drugs. You can also preserve credit card statements, video footage, pictures, and phone or GPS records to prove you were somewhere else when the drug crime happened.
Build a Robust Defense Strategy
Your lawyer will walk you through the process of developing a robust defense. The lawyer will start by explaining what you should expect during the proceedings. The lawyer will also help you predict the questions the prosecutor might ask and the best answer to provide. Your lawyer can use any of the following defenses to fight your drug trafficking charge:
Unlawful Search or Seizure
It’s illegal for police officers to search or seize you, your car, or your house without a reasonable cause or valid warrant. Any evidence obtained through unlawful search or seizure is inadmissible in court.
Miranda Rights Violation
The law requires police officers to read your Miranda rights when arresting you. Your lawyer can push to have the statements you made during the arrest rendered inadmissible if the arresting officer failed to caution you on your right to remain silent.
You can claim that you were in a different location when the crime was happening. You must present compelling evidence to back your claim for the alibi defense to work.
Your lawyer can compel the prosecutor to drop the drug trafficking charges by presenting evidence that the police mistook you for someone else. The lawyer can demonstrate that the police used leading and unreliable identification procedures, including showing photos to an eyewitness and parading suspects.
Contesting Proof of Substance
Your criminal defense lawyer may argue that the substance in question is not a controlled substance. The prosecutor will need to present scientific evidence that the substance is a prohibited drug or controlled substance. Your lawyer might then question the scientific reliability of the testing procedures used or poke holes into the evidence presented.
Contesting Proof of Knowledge or Intent
Besides proving the item sold or distributed was a prohibited drug or controlled substance, the prosecution must demonstrate you knowingly or intentionally sold or distributed it. Your lawyer can challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution side to back its claims.
The government or confidential informants (CIs) might prompt suspects to engage in criminal conduct that they would have otherwise avoided. Your lawyer can use this defense when an undercover officer or CI pressures you into trafficking drugs.
An entrapment defense involves admitting that you engaged in criminal conduct, but had legal reasons for doing so. Your lawyer will evaluate the specifics of your case to determine whether this defense will be effective in your case.
What Is Drug Trafficking?
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines drug trafficking as the illegal trade of cultivating, manufacturing, distributing, and selling unlawful drugs or controlled substances. The definition of drug trafficking varies from state to state. In Minnesota, for instance, drug trafficking is majorly a crime of possession.
A drug trafficking charge might apply if you are found with large amounts of illegal drugs or controlled substances. You may face a drug trafficking charge if you are found with the following amounts of prohibited drugs or unlawful controlled substances:
- 25 grams or more of heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine
- 500 grams or more (or at least 500 dosage units) of hallucinogens, amphetamine, or phencyclidine (PCP)
- 500 grams or more of any other narcotic drug that is not heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine
- At least 100 kilograms of marijuana
Prosecutors may sometimes be willing to offer you a plea deal even if you were found with the required amounts of illegal drugs or substances for a drug trafficking charge. This is especially true if the prosecutors feel the available evidence is insufficient for a drug trafficking conviction. Your lawyer can persistently negotiate with prosecutors to lower the level of the charges or sentencing.
Proving Illegal Searches and Seizures
An unlawful search and seizure occur when law enforcement officers conduct a search and seizure:
- Without a magistrate- or judge-signed search warrant specifying the place, individual, or items subject to search or seizure
- Without justifiable reason that a specific person, place, or vehicle has criminal evidence; Stretching beyond what is specified in the search warrant.
The right to protection from illegal search and seizure applies when you have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area or item getting searched. The specific details of your case will determine whether your expectation of privacy is reasonable. Generally, your expectation of privacy would be higher in your home than in your car. A search warrant might be necessary when a home is getting searched, but one might not be required for law enforcement to search your vehicle.
Your protection against unlawful search and seizure may trigger multiple interpretations. As such, you should let your lawyer know if you suspect you were a victim of an illegal search and seizure. The lawyer will then perform additional investigations and analyze available facts to determine if the police officers violated your constitutional rights.
Penalties for Drug Trafficking in Minnesota
Drug trafficking laws in Minnesota categorize drug trafficking as a first-degree controlled substance crime. A conviction of drug trafficking in the first degree may carry a jail time of up to 30 years or up to $1 million in fines, or both.
The jail time increases to up to 40 years for offenders with prior convictions. First-time offenders may also face upper-tier sentences if aggravating circumstances, including the use of force, threats, or weapon, exist in their case.
Drug trafficking can also be prosecuted as a federal drug crime. This fact further worsens the situation for those facing drug trafficking charges. An offender might face state and federal drug trafficking charges if available evidence suggests the offender might have crossed state boundaries while committing the alleged trafficking, or the alleged trafficking activities happened in two or more states.
A drug trafficking conviction at the state and federal levels will carry harsher penalties. The offender might face up to 40-year imprisonment period and up to $5 million in fines.
Under Minnesota Law, you must complete mandatory minimums before qualifying for probation and post-prison supervision. The minimum jail time is two-thirds of the enforced imprisonment period.
Hidden Consequences of a Drug Crime Conviction in Minnesota
The impact of a drug crime conviction in Minnesota goes beyond imprisonment and fines. You might face many other consequences after completing the prison time and paying fines. Below are some of those consequences:
Loss of Voting Rights
A Minnesota felony drug crime conviction can result in the loss of your voting rights. You might also lose your jury membership right.
Loss of Firearm Possession Rights
A felony drug crime conviction in Minnesota can result in permanent loss of the right to own a firearm.
Loss of a Professional License
Certain professions, including nursing, teaching, and driving commercial trucks, require a professional license. Members of such professions might lose their licenses if they are convicted of felony drug crimes in Minnesota.
Inability to Secure Employment
A felony drug conviction might remain on your record forever. Employers often do not consider candidates with a criminal record for employment. So, securing a job after a drug crime conviction can be a challenge.
Working with a criminal defense attorney in your area may help identify and implement strategies for how to beat drug trafficking charges, potentially limiting these and other possible penalties.