Interviewer: What do you tell us about search and seizures or warrants and police officers? Have there been any cases where there was an illegal search and seizure or illegal warrants that you can remember?
Court: Drug cases are breeding grounds for search and seizure violations. The reason is that when you consider the evidence that is going to be presented in a drug possession case the evidence is going to be the drugs the officer found.
In almost every case it becomes a huge bone of contention whether or not that evidence was obtained lawfully by the police officer, whether or not the search was constitutional. Not in every case but really the vast majority of cases there is some at least an investigation by an attorney whether the search and seizure was constitutional. If not, the attorney files a motion to suppress evidence based on a non-constitutional seizure of evidence.
How Should You Respond to the Police When Asked about Drug Use or Possession?
Interviewer: If a police officer asks an individual while they are in their car if they’ve taken any drugs, what would be the best response for that?
It Is Best to Politely Decline to Answer Police Questions
Court: The best thing to do when you are being investigated or questioned by a police officer is to politely decline to answer the questions. It is a little known fact that you don’t have to answer a police officer’s questions. The police officers are very good at making it seem like you have to. It may seem that you are required to answer the questions that they ask you, “Where are you travelling to, where you’ve been, what you are doing?”
All those sorts of questions can be fishing questions. They are trying to get some suspicion that you are doing something wrong or breaking the law; you don’t have to answer those questions. You don’t want to be rude to a law enforcement officer, you want to assert your rights and simply say, “Sorry, I refuse to answer any questions without my attorney present.” You can just not answer the questions and just remain silent.
When Facing Drug-Related Charges, It Is Advisable to Initially Plead Not Guilty; You Always Have the Option of Changing Your Plea
Interviewer: When you’re working with a client, and there seems to be substantial evidence against them, what would it be more advantageous; to be plead guilty or not guilty?
Court: Almost all plead not guilty at first. You can always change your plea. The prosecutor isn’t going to get upset if you decide to plead guilty after you’ve pled not guilty but it doesn’t offer you any protection or any advantage at all to plead guilty.
A Plea of Guilty at the Beginning of Your Case Removes the Option of a Plea Bargain or Any Negotiation with the Prosecution
In fact, you don’t even need a lawyer; there is nothing that I can do to help you if you just go and plead guilty. You don’t want to plead guilty because what’s going to happen to you is basically the worst case scenario. You’re going to be convicted of the charges that the prosecutor has brought with no plea bargain and no sentencing requirements or recommendations.
That’s what pleading guilty is; so we always plead not guilty at first and then we go to the process of pre-trial motions and negotiations with the prosecutor. We weigh whether or not it will be a good idea for you to go to trial.
Sometimes you can get a plea bargain where you plead guilty to a lesser charge or you get a sentencing recommendation agreement from the prosecutor or you end up getting the charges dropped off all together. You never want to plead guilty without talking to a lawyer or without some informed advice.
Is Self-Representation a Good Option When Facing Drug-Related Charges?
Interviewer: What do you advise when someone says, “Hey I got caught, I admitted that they got me; why can’t I represent myself and face the penalty and fine?”
Defendants Not Represented by Counsel Receive Harsher Penalties
Court: You can represent yourself it’s on the constitution; you have the right to do it. Is it a good idea? No, it’s a terrible idea. It’s not right that this is true but it is true and this is the way that it works. Defendants that are unrepresented receive larger sentences and they get harsher sentences, that is the bottom line.
Even for convictions of the same crimes and the same degrees they end up getting harsher sentences. That’s not counting all the other things that an attorney can do to mitigate your charges; just because you had some quantity of a drug does not mean that you are guilty of the exact charges that the prosecutor is bringing against you.
You Will Not Be Able to Reduce or Mitigate Any Charges or Will Even Know If You are Being Overcharged Unless You Consult with an Attorney
They may be charging you with intent to distribute when you are just in possession of it. You may not realize that or even if you do, you do not know how to defend yourself. Frequently, the public thinks is that the defense attorneys are trying to get you off a charge, get everything completely dropped and sometimes that’s true. But much more common is your attorney getting charges that are not fair taken off and reduced.
Where a prosecutor will try to charge you with a more severe crime than you actually committed and it’s our job to bring things back down to the level where they actually belong. You definitely want an attorney; it’s the worst idea in the world to represent yourself and just throw up your hands and say, “I’m guilty,” especially if you have a serious drug charge.