Norfolk Drug Crimes Cases 

If someone is facing drug charges in Norfolk, it is essential that they contact an attorney immediately. The closer in time to the incident, accusation, or charges an individual contacts an attorney, the sooner the lawyer could begin working on the case. It is important to contact an experienced drug attorney when the events are still fresh so that the names of potential witnesses can be supplied, and the lawyers could quickly get to work researching issues that may arise.

Speak to a diligent defense attorney to learn about the nuances of Norfolk drug crime cases and how to fight the charges.

Where Are Narcotics Cases Typically Heard?

Drug cases are heard in general district and circuit courts. If it is a misdemeanor, the charge will usually be brought in general district court. However, an individual has the right to appeal any decision of a general district court to the circuit court.

Whether or not a case is a bench or jury trial depends on the facts of the case. However, most simple cases are tried by a judge.

Length of Drug Offense Cases

Drug offense cases can be lengthy. It may take months for alleged drugs to be analyzed, and the case may be continued multiple times. However, this does not mean that an individual’s constitutional speedy trial rights are waived.

If the Commonwealth does not try the case within a certain period of time, nine months, if the accused person is out on bond or five months if the individual was incarcerated, the Commonwealth must either nolle prosse the charge or the accused person may move for the charge to be dismissed.

What Does the Prosecution Need to Prove in a Narcotics Case?

The prosecution in a narcotics case needs to prove that the individual possessed illicit substances knowingly, meaning that they knew of the presence of narcotics, knew of their character and nature, and knew that the drugs were scheduled substances. On possession with intent to distribute charges, the Commonwealth must prove possession as well as an intent to distribute.

Intent to distribute is often shown through circumstantial evidence. This can be shown through the presence of large quantities of narcotics, by proving that the drugs were individually packaged, by showing that the quantity of illicit substances negates any inference that the drugs were for personal use, the presence of multiple cellphones, large sums of cash in multiple denominations, and the presence of multiple scales.

What Elements Could Be Contested at Trial?

A frequent issue that arises in drug crime trials are whether the individual knew of the presence and character of alleged narcotics. This occurs in a constructive possession case. For example, if an individual was in a car and in the back of the car were some drugs, the prosecution must prove that the person knew that the narcotics were there.

However, the Commonwealth must overcome the fact that under Virginia law, mere presence or occupancy in a vehicle is not sufficient to establish constructive possession.

Another issue that frequently arises is whether the drugs were illegal, which is why it is important to make sure that the substances were tested reliably by the Department of Forensic Sciences.

Constitutional Issues

The most common constitutional issues in Norfolk drug crime cases involve the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The Fourth Amendment comes into play during traffic stops, stops on the sidewalk, and search warrants. The searches and seizures must support a probable cause, and the same is true for search warrants. The Fifth Amendment comes into play after an individual is arrested and is subject to a custodial interrogation.

A common misconception is that once someone is arrested, they must be informed of their Miranda rights. That is not true. The only issue that Miranda applies to are custodial interrogations, meaning the person was placed under arrest and was asked questions about the alleged incident in a situation in which that individual did not feel free to leave. If an individual was interrogated by police without the benefit of the Miranda warnings, any statement made would be suppressed.

Potential Mistakes Made by Law Enforcement Officers When Issuing a Drug Charge

Potential mistakes by law enforcement officers can include forgetting to advise an individual of their rights to scientific testing when being issued a possession of marijuana charge, or constitutional issues such as probable cause to stop and search, failing to establish chain of custody, or failing to adequately inform an accused person of their rights under Miranda.

If any procedural mistakes were made by law enforcement offices, a knowledgeable drug attorney could use that information in a motion to suppress, which, if granted, could result in the exclusion of incriminating evidence. In many cases, police officers and prosecutors are not willing to admit that they made a mistake. It is up to the attorney or the accused person to bring the mistake to a judge’s attention, who will then dismiss the evidence or the charges.

Sentencing for Drug-Related Crimes

The sentence a person receives for drug-related crimes depends on the individual’s criminal history and the charge. Courts are usually willing to work with an individual who has an addiction problem. There are multiple programs available, such as the first offender program and therapeutic community, if an individual is an addict. However, distribution cases are typically sentenced more harshly and without the benefit of these programs.

Let a Drug Attorney Help

Due to the serious nature of a drug crime and potential penalties, it is best to retain the services of a seasoned defense lawyer. A skilled drug attorney could review the facts of the case, protect your rights, and help you build a defense to fight the charges.

Call today to learn about Norfolk drug crime cases and get started building your defense.