Whether it is possession of marijuana or possession of a more dangerous substance, such as methamphetamine, drug possession is a serious crime in Virginia. With penalties such as years behind bars, steep fines and a criminal record at stake, it is important to take possession charges seriously. The following are some examples of defenses that might be used to counter drug possession charges.
One possible defense against drug possession charges is that the alleged drugs were obtained through an unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In general, the police need a valid search warrant or "probable cause" to believe a crime has been committed to perform a search or seizure, although there are exceptions. If the search or seizure of evidence violates the accused's Fourth Amendment rights, then that evidence cannot be used against the accused. In drug possession cases, this may mean that the charges against the accused will be dropped.
Another possible defense that might be used to counter drug possession charges is that the alleged drugs were not the property of the accused. For example, if it can be shown that the drugs belonged to the accused's roommate and the accused had no idea that the drugs were in the shared residence, then it is possible that the charges against the accused could be dismissed.
A third possible defense against drug possession charges is to argue that the chain of possession of the alleged drugs was broken. Seized drugs change hands throughout the investigation process. They go from the police, to the crime lab to be analyzed and then to the evidence locker, among other possible transfers. If evidence is not accurately labeled or there are not clear and correct records of its transfer, then this may be another reason for the court to dismiss the charges against the accused.
These are only some examples of defenses that may be available to those accused of possessing illicit drugs. However, all cases are unique and defenses that work in one person's case may not work in another person's case. Therefore, any criminal defense strategy should be tailored to a person's specific circumstances, keeping in mind how the law applies to the facts of their case.