How Your Jail Release in Minnesota Helps and Impacts Your Case

After more than fifty years, it appears that public support for America’s war on drugs is faltering. A growing number of Wright County jurors see illicit drugs as a health and safety issue, as opposed to a criminal law issue. So, outcomes for a Buffalo MN drug crime lawyer in these cases are changing, particularly in simple possession matters.

Court and Government Response to Drug Crimes in the U.S.

Nevertheless, prosecutors are still very aggressive in this area, especially regarding possession cases. In the 1980s, when the War on Drugs was just heating up, drug arrests were evenly split between possession and distribution matters. Today, simple possession cases make up over 80 percent of all drug arrests. 

Apropos of nothing, the law enforcement climate changed in the early 80s mostly because of Len Bias’ death. According to many, this basketball phenom was as good as Michael Jordan, or maybe better. If you see this kid’s highlight reel, it’s hard to disagree with either assertion. A few hours after the Boston Celtics chose Bias in the first round, he did a line of cocaine at a party, laid down, and died. 

In response, Congress passed a number of laws which, in retrospect, were overly strict. These laws included the controversial mandatory minimum sentencing requirement. A trace amount of cocaine meant a long prison sentence, regardless of the facts. Several decades later, President Barack Obama issued over 1,700 pardons, most of them for harsh drug crime sentences from the late 20th century.

The aforementioned environmental changes (public health v. public safety) give Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers an even better opportunity to successfully resolve drug possession cases in Wright County. While every matter is different, most follow the same general outline.

Get Out of Jail (Almost) Free in Buffalo MN

A new day is also dawning in terms of jail release, which is always the first priority in a criminal case. The changed political and social climate is a good sign, but pretrial detention creates multiple serious problems for Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers and their clients. 

Economic Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

Even a few days behind bars could have an unbelievable economic impact on a Minnesota family. Most people lose their jobs and/or businesses in these situations. Without any way to provide for their families, these individuals often become increasingly desperate. 

The strain on emotional relationships could be even worse than the strain on professional relationships. 

Emotion Impact of Drug Charges in Buffalo MN

Furthermore, incarceration can cause brain injury, which is colloquially known as the “jailhouse blues.” Incarceration triggers the fight-or-flight instinct. People who are behind bars have neither option. So, their stress hormone levels go through the roof. Continued exposure to such hormones alters brain chemistry. Many people know someone who was not the same person when s/he got out of jail as s/he was before. That’s because, from a brain biology standpoint, the person is different.

Perhaps most importantly, many jurors assume if the defendant is in jail, the defendant must have done something wrong. At that point, the drug possession case becomes a criminal law violation which merits punishment, as far as the jury is concerned. In other words, especially in these cases, pretrial detention transforms the presumption of innocence into a presumption of guilt.

Release on Your Own Recognizance in Buffalo MN

OR (Own Recognizance) release is often an option in nonviolent cases, such as drug possession. Essentially, the defendant promises to appear at trial, and the sheriff releases the defendant. This form of pretrial release has gained significant traction in recent years, as critics have harped on the cash bail system. These critics note that most inmates in county jails are unsentenced. They are simply waiting for trial because they cannot afford bail.

That commonly-cited statistic might be misleading. Many of the incarcerated people have already made bail and are just waiting on their paperwork to clear. Indeed, a number of these individuals probably voluntarily surrendered and are booking in and booking out. They might never make it past the waiting room. Furthermore, a pure OR release program gives judges no discretion in this area. Semi-violent offenders, like stalkers, are right back out on the street, regardless of the facts.

So, complete bail reform, which several states have tried, is pretty much a bust. In New York, the pure OR system lasted less than a year.

Nevertheless, OR is a good option in many cases. The procedure varies slightly in different jurisdictions. Generally, a review board considers the charged offense and the defendant’s criminal record, then gives a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Although there is no formal hearing, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can usually advocate for defendants before review boards, at least informally. This advocacy could be the difference between OR release and a money-based release option.

Traditional Jail Release Options

Cash bail, or a bail bond, is still available in Wright County. Typically, and forgive us if we sound like a broken record, the sheriff sets a presumptive bail amount based on the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and the severity of the offense. The presumptive amount is usually around $700 for most misdemeanors and $1,500 for most felonies. The exact amount varies significantly, mostly according to the facts of the case.

Bail Per Charge in Buffalo MN

Also, bail is usually per charge as opposed to per arrest. So, if Dexter faces three felony charges, his bail will probably be a minimum of $4,500. Due to the facts of the case, it will probably be a lot higher than that. Indeed, the sheriff might not even set a presumptive amount in such cases. More on that below.

Cash Bail in Buffalo MN

Financially, cash bail is like a rental property security deposit. If the defendant fulfills all bail conditions, the county refunds most of the cash bail money. In addition to appearing at trial, some other common pretrial release conditions include reporting to a bail bond agent, remaining in the county, and avoiding any further legal trouble.

The cash bail system has been around for thousands of years. Most people value their money above all else. The prospect of losing it is usually sufficient to convince people to toe the line, at least temporarily. The obvious problem with this system is that, for many people, $4,500 might as well be $45 million.

Bail “Bond” in Buffalo MN

So, a bail bond is usually available. Essentially, a bond is an insurance policy. If your car is damaged, your auto insurance company assumes the financial risk. Similarly, if a defendant fails to meet all bond conditions and the judge revokes it, the bail bond company assumes the financial risk. Most bail bonds companies charge about a 15 percent premium to issue these insurance policies.

Bail Revocation in Buffalo MN

Speaking of bail revocation, if the judge revokes your bond, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can help you turn yourself in, as outlined above. Usually, a lawyer has all the ducks in a row, including a new bond. This alternative is much better than having a warrant pop up during a random traffic stop.

In serious cases, such as drug trafficking or felony drug possession cases, cash bail or a bail bond might not be an immediate option. Either the sheriff doesn’t set an amount or the amount is so high that the defendant cannot possibly pay it. A Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can set or reduce bail at the arraignment, which usually happens about three days after the arrest.

Initial determinations are usually limited to criminal record and nature of the offense. At the arraignment, the judge considers a number of other factors, such as the defendant’s:

  • Links to the community,
  • Ability to skip bail,
  • Threat to individual witnesses or victims,
  • Ability to pay, and
  • Willingness to abide by conditions.

Attorneys usually settle these matters out of court. For example, the prosecutor might agree to reduce the bail amount if the defendant agrees to electronic monitoring.

Procedural Defenses for Drug Crimes in Buffalo MN

Jail release gives a defense attorney a head start. Pretrial release does more than eliminate the presumption of guilt. Release also allows defendants and Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyers to work together as partners. However, there is still a long race to run.

To seal the deal, the case must usually involve a legal defense. A defense gives the jury the legal opportunity to acquit a defendant. So, the better the defense, the riskier trial becomes. That risk increases a Wright County prosecutor’s willingness to deal.

What the 4th Amendment Means

Many drug possession cases involve a procedural defense. Under the Fourth Amendment, officers either need a search warrant or probable cause before they can seize evidence of a crime, including contraband substances. If a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer excludes the evidence, the state’s case normally collapses like a house of cards. An officer’s testimony that the defendant had drugs is insufficient.

Search Warrants in Buffalo MN

Most drug trafficking cases involve search warrants. Typically, several agencies work together on these arrests, which culminate with a search warrant. Frequently, officers depend, at least in large part, on a confidential informant’s testimony. CIs receive money or leniency in exchange for such testimony. Therefore, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer can often successfully challenge drug trafficking search warrants. Many people will say nearly anything for love or money.

Probable Cause Exception

But most drug possession cases don’t involve search warrants. Events happen too quickly. Therefore, the prosecutor must rely on the probable cause exception. Over the years, courts have created a few specific doctrines, such as:

  • Consent: Owners may allow officers to search their property, such as a house or a wallet. Consent is an affirmative, voluntary act. There’s a big difference between assent and consent. Furthermore, if officers threatened to get a warrant if the defendant didn’t agree to the search, that consent is arguably involuntary.
  • Plain View: This exception frequently comes up in vehicle possession cases. If officers see contraband in plain view, like a bottle of prescription painkillers, they may seize it without a warrant. This right is only available if the officer was lawfully in that place at that time. So, reasonable suspicion for the stop, or lack thereof, could be an issue.
  • Stop and Frisk: The reasonable suspicion rule also applies in these stops. Reasonable suspicion means specific, articulable facts which point to criminal activity. In this case, that criminal activity must be illegal weapon possession. During this pat-down, officers can seize any other contraband they see, or rather feel, in plain view, or rather plain touch.

Other Constitutional rights sometimes come into play. Cell phones are a good example. The Supreme Court has ruled that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in all content past the home screen. If officers want to read your text messages or take other such actions, they must either get a warrant or obtain owner consent.

Stingray Devices in Buffalo MN

Incidentally, some Minnesota law enforcement agencies have Stingray devices. These sophisticated gadgets, which are also known as IMSI catchers or cell site simulators, send false signals which trick cell phones into connecting with a fake tower, allowing police to track the owner’s movements. Some Stingrays can read your text messages, call records, Internet search history, and even tap into your phone calls.

Needless to say, these devices are quite controversial, so law enforcement agencies keep their mouths shut about the specifics of the gadgets they own.

Substantive Drug Possession Defenses

The legal definition of possession offers a defense in many cases. Proximity to the drugs, by itself, is not enough. The state must also prove the following elements:

  • Control: Theoretical possession is not enough. Prosecutors must establish that the defendant exercised control over the drugs. The drugs must not have been in a locked container, like a glove compartment, and must not have been in someone else’s possession, such as a joint passed around at a party.
  • Knowledge: This element must be more than theoretical as well. A defendant must know more than “something illegal” is in a bag. As a matter of fact, the defendant can literally be sitting on a stash of drugs, and not possess the stash for legal purposes.

At trial, the prosecutor must establish all elements of possession, and all the other elements of the offense, beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

What is Deferred Disposition in Buffalo MN?

Normally, a Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer files a pretrial motion in disputed possession matters. If the judge rules favorably, the judge will throw the prosecution out of court.

If the defense is strong enough, many prosecutors offer good deals before that hearing. They do not want to risk losing everything because of an adverse judicial ruling. Deferred disposition is usually available in drug possession cases.

Prosecutorial deferred disposition is like pretrial diversion. If the defendant successfully completes program requirements, the prosecutor dismisses the case. Judicial deferred disposition is like probation. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.

Both these outcomes have significant advantages, but there are significant risks as well. So, before you accept one, review the situation thoroughly with an experienced Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer.

Connect with a Buffalo MN Drug Crime Lawyer

Most drug possession cases have a relatively happy ending. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN drug crime lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

 

 

This original article was published July 17, 2019 and updated June 3, 2021.

Drug Possession Charges and Brainerd, MN Drug Crime Lawyers

In the 1980s, possession cases accounted for about 5 percent of all drug arrests. Since then, that proportion has grown to over 80 percent. Police officers are more aggressive when it comes to possession cases, but many Crow Wing County jurors are more forgiving. Increasingly, people view drugs as a health and safety issues as opposed to a criminal law issue. That’s especially true with regard to semi-legal drugs, like marijuana and prescription painkillers.

Partially because of this attitude, it’s easier for Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers to successfully resolve these cases, particularly if the defendant has little or no criminal record. Additionally, as outlined below, drug possession charges are difficult to prove in court.

Produce the Substance

According to an obscure legal principle called the best evidence rule, a police officer’s testimony that a defendant had drugs is usually not good enough, unless there is corroborating physical evidence. And, just because officers seize contraband, that doesn’t mean the substance is admissible.

Normally, physical evidence is inadmissible unless officers have search warrants. Since officers rarely bother with search warrants in possession cases, they must rely on a search warrant exception. Some common ones in these cases include:

  • Consent: Officers cannot look in backpacks, glove compartments, or other containers without the owner’s permission. Typically, consent is an affirmative, immediate act. However, different rules sometimes apply if the defendant was on probation or parole.
  • Exigent Circumstances: Police officers can disrupt parties or other gatherings if they believe someone is in trouble. In these cases, they can perform a safety sweep and seize any contraband they see in plain view.
  • Plain View: As the name implies, if officers see drugs or other contraband in plain view, they may seize it without a warrant.  Partial plain view cases, such as a pistol grip protruding from under a car seat, are in a grey area.

Judges usually determine if contraband is admissible during pretrial hearings. Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers can use previous cases to show that the seizure was illegal. If the evidence is admissible, the case moves to the next area.

Brainerd, MN Drug Crime Lawyers and Proof of Illegality

Officers always claim that substances “field-tested” positive as illegal drugs. These field tests are completely unscientific. Frequently, they are not much more than sensory tests. Additionally, these tests are completely uncorroborated. There are usually no actual test results. Frequently, it’s just the officer’s word.

So, these preliminary tests are never conclusive. In December 2018, police arrested a Florida man was arrested on heroin possession charges. That “heroin” turned out to be laundry detergent.

The lesson from cases like this one is clear. A Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer must always order scientific tests from an independent laboratory.

This element is particularly complicated in marijuana possession cases. Industrial hemp is legal, and recreational marijuana is illegal. The problem is that hemp and marijuana are physically indistinguishable. They look alike and smell alike.

To prove the substance was marijuana and not hemp, prosecutors must order expensive THC content tests. These tests are not cost-efficient in some cases, and not available in other cases. So, it’s even easier for Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers to resolve marijuana possession cases. Frequently, prosecutors would rather offer pretrial diversion or another alternative in these cases, especially because of the aforementioned juror attitudes.

Establishing Possession

It’s not enough to produce the substance and prove it was illegal. Crow Wing County prosecutors must also establish possession. And, they must establish it beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the everyday world, possession usually means proximity. I possess my smartphone even if it’s on the table instead of in my hand. But to Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers, possession means more than proximity. Prosecutors must also establish knowledge and control.

Assume officers pull over Freddy for speeding. They suspect wrongdoing, and Freddy gives them consent to search the car. During that search, officers find marijuana in the glove compartment. So, they arrest Freddy and Shaggy, who was a passenger.

The possession charges against Shaggy will not hold up in court unless the state proves Shaggy knew there was marijuana in the glove box and he had access to it. Unless Freddy and Shaggy were practically joined at the hip, a Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer could probably beat the charges against Shaggy, even if the substance turned out to be marijuana instead of hemp.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Several defenses are available to drug possession charges. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

Three Key Elements of Marijuana Possession Cases and Drug Crime Lawyers in Brainerd, MN

Minnesota peace officers are very aggressive when it comes to marijuana possession arrests. In fact, in 2019, these arrests increased 66 percent, partially due to marijuana edibles from Illinois and other states where recreational pot is legal. Traditional joint and dime bag arrests are very common as well.

Many advocates point to these high arrest figures as proof that Minnesota should legalize pot and focus law enforcement resources elsewhere. But as the 2020 legislative session gets underway, it’s very unlikely that the Republican-controlled Senate will pass a legalization measure.

So for now, POM (possession of marijuana) cases will continue to dominate Crow Wing County criminal court dockets. Fortunately, there are a number of ways for a Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer to successfully resolve these cases. Most of these resolutions involve one of the three main elements of a POM case, as outlined below.

Produce the Substance

Possession cases always involve physical evidence. An officer can testify that the defendant had a marijuana edible or a joint, but oral testimony is not good enough.

According to the Fourth Amendment, it’s illegal to search private property, like a backpack, and seize contraband, like drugs, unless the officer has a warrant or a narrow exception applies. Drug possession arrests often happen so quickly that officers do not have warrants. So, to produce the alleged illegal substance in court, Crow Wing County prosecutors must normally rely on a search warrant exception. Some examples include:

  • Consent: Owners or apparent owners can allow peace officers to search property, like a dwelling, car, or cell phone. Usually, consent is a voluntary, affirmative act made at the time of the search. Special rules might apply if the defendant is currently on probation or parole.
  • Exigent Circumstances: If officers respond to a disturbance call or see an erratically-parked car, they can usually enter the dwelling or car without a warrant and perform a security sweep to make sure the occupants are okay. During this sweep, they can seize any contraband they see in plain view.
  • Plain View: Drugs and other contraband are in plain view if they are at least partially visible to the naked eye. These seizures are lawful if officers were legally in that place to begin with. So, the traffic stop, DUI roadblock, or whatever must have been legitimate.

The state has the burden of proof on this point. A Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer need only raise the issue in court and cast doubt on the search’s legality.

Brainerd, MN Drug Crime Lawyers and Proof of Illegality

In many possession cases, legality or the lack thereof is rather easy to establish. For many years, that was the case with leafy marijuana, marijuana edibles, and black-market marijuana vaping cartridges. But then, Congress legalized industrial hemp, and everything changed.

Physically, hemp and marijuana are indistinguishable. They look the same, feel the same, and smell the same. Additionally, they can be used in roughly the same way.

In order to distinguish between legal hemp and illegal marijuana, prosecutors must generally administer a Tetrahydrocannabinol content test. Legally, hemp is marijuana which has a THC content less than .3 percent. If the alleged “marijuana” has a .29999 THC content, legally, it is not marijuana.

These chemical tests are often unavailable, so there may be no such evidence. THC content tests are quite expensive, so many small counties, like Crow Wing County, cannot afford them.

Regarding edibles, some prosecutors try to introduce labels which state the product has the requisite THC content. But a product label is not the best evidence of a product’s content. Therefore, like an officer’s testimony about substance possession, such evidence is usually inadmissible.

Establishing Possession

The state’s job is not over yet. Even if prosecutors produce the substance and prove it was illegal, they must still prove legal possession. Under Minnesota law, possession is more than proximity. Prosecutors must also establish knowledge and control. Here are some examples that Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers often deal with.

Assume Tommy is a passenger in Frank’s car. Unbeknownst to Tommy, Frank recently purchased some marijuana edibles in Illinois. Even if the edibles were within Tommy’s reach, he did not legally possess them. He did not know about them.

Let’s change the facts a bit. Now assume Tommy knows about the edibles, but they are locked in Frank’s glove compartment. Even if Tommy was in the passenger’s seat, he did not possess the edibles. He did not control them.

In both these situations, Tommy is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So, prosecutors must have overwhelming evidence on all three elements of marijuana possession. Otherwise, the presumption of innocence alone might be enough to acquit Tommy.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Marijuana possession charges often do not hold up in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Drug Possession Charges and Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyers

Until the end of the 1980s, authorities focused mostly on large drug trafficking operations. These convictions meant headline-grabbing sentences. But the prosecutions had lots of moving parts and were difficult to win. The early 1980s prosecution of auto magnate John DeLorean is a good example.

So, beginning in the 1990s, authorities began focusing more on simple drug possession matters. As a result, the number of these prosecutions increased by 75 percent between 1990 and 2006. The number of drug possession arrests has leveled off since then, but these prosecutions still form the vast majority of most drug court dockets in Crow Wing County.

Drug possession cases are less involved than drug trafficking cases. For example, most possession prosecutions do not involve lengthy investigations or even search warrants. Officers see a violation and they arrest the alleged violator.

Nevertheless, drug possession cases still have a number of moving parts and they are not easy to win. So, a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can often successfully resolve these matters. That resolution could be a complete dismissal of charges or a diversion program which results in no criminal conviction.

Produce the Substance

As mentioned, police officers rarely obtain search warrants in drug possession cases. Events happen too quickly. However, the Fourth Amendment still applies in these situations. This provision prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. So, in order for the seized physical evidence to be admissible in court, a search warrant exception must apply. Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyers deal with several exceptions, including:

  • Consent: Owners or apparent owners can give police officers consent to search a building or other property. Apparent owners are people like a spouse whose name is not technically on the deed. Consent is an affirmative act. Opening the door for officers is definitely not consent. Verbally inviting them in is probably not consent to search either. But agreeing to “have them take a look around” is definitely consent.
  • Exigent Circumstances: The emergency exception is related to the consent doctrine. If officers believe someone is in trouble, they may enter a dwelling without a warrant. Common examples include disturbance calls and gas leaks. During these security sweeps, officers may seize any drugs or other contraband they see in plain view.
  • Plain View: This exception often comes up in vehicle searches. If officers see contraband in plain view, they may seize it without a warrant. The seized evidence is only admissible in court if officers were lawfully in that place at that time.

If prosecutors cannot produce the alleged drugs in court, there is no evidence against the defendant. An officer’s testimony about drug possession is not the best evidence under the rules of procedure, so such testimony is therefore inadmissible. Without any physical evidence, a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer need not bother with the two issues discussed below. However, if a Crow Wing County judge rules the evidence is admissible, the case continues.

Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyers and Proof of Illegality

Officers always testify that the seized substance “field-tested” positive for cocaine, marijuana, or whatever. However, these field tests are completely unscientific. Frequently, they are little more than visual inspections. So, errors are common. In 2019, officers arrested Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts on drug possession charges. The substance field-tested positive for cocaine. A subsequent chemical test revealed that the substance was bird poop.

Significantly, the state will not perform an additional test unless a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer makes such a request. In many situations, attorneys request a retest from an independent laboratory. Many times, these results are different from the ones police technicians found.

Marijuana is a special case, now that hemp is legal in Minnesota. Physically, marijuana looks, feels, and smells exactly like hemp. So, the state must perform a THC content test to determine the difference between the two. Legally, the substance is only marijuana if its THC content exceeds .03 percent.

Establishing Possession

There is one last major hurdle in a drug possession case. The state must establish all three elements of possession, which are:

  • Proximity,
  • Knowledge, and
  • Control.

Assume Juan gives officers consent to search his apartment. Unbeknownst to him, Jerry, Juan’s roommate, has a marijuana stash under his bed. Officers arrest Juan after they find the stash. Those charges will not hold up in court, unless the state can prove that Juan knew about the stash.

Or, assume Betty and her friends are passing a joint at a party. When officers arrive, Cathy is taking a drag. Officers arrest Betty because she was close to the joint and she knew it was marijuana. However, these charges will probably not hold up in court either. A Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can argue that Betty did not control the joint.

Team Up with an Aggressive Attorney

Drug possession charges often do not hold up in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

A Hutchinson, MN Drug Crime Lawyer Talks About New CBD Oil Rules

Currently, marijuana products, specifically Cannabidiol (CBD oil), are in a legal grey area. Two new provisions which take effect in January 2020 seek to clear up this confusion. In reality, they may have muddied the waters even further.

Briefly, CBD oil is a marijuana extract that contains no Tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the marijuana ingredient which makes people high or stoned. Several studies have concluded that CBD oil is an effective treatment for a wide range of conditions, from anxiety to Alzheimer’s disease, but almost none of this research occurred in the United States. CBD oil is an ingredient in many products, mostly topical gels and ingestible liquids.

A provision buried deep within the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy’s legislative actions states that, as of January 2020, “the sale of CBD products that meet certain labeling and testing requirements will be permitted under state law.” Note this legal change pertains to sale, and not possession. So, it may be legal to sell CBD products, but it may not be legal to possess or use them for personal reasons.

The law is even more confusing. Minnesota’s hemp legalization measure also takes full effect in January 2020. Legally, the Legislature defined hemp as anything with a THC content under 0.3 percent. Testing equipment to determine THC content is available, but it is not widely available, especially in smaller jurisdictions like McLeod County. Therefore, a Hutchinson, MN drug crime lawyer might be able to challenge the evidence in marijuana possession cases. If the state cannot prove the substance at issue had a THC content above 0.3 percent, prosecutors cannot meet their burden of proof.

Possession of Marijuana (POM) Laws in McLeod County

So, if you possess any CBD product, even after January 1, 2020, that possession might still violate Minnesota’s marijuana possession law. Possession under 42.5 grams is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $200 fine. That amount of marijuana is roughly thirty dime bags. So, unless you have a very large stash of marijuana or CBD products, you are probably looking at misdemeanor charges.

Since POM is a fine-only offense, peace officers normally have the option of arresting the defendant or issuing a citation, which is basically a traffic ticket. There is a big difference between the two. Even if you are booked and released, the arrest could go on your permanent record. That’s not true if police issue a citation.

If police arrest you for CBD or marijuana possession, call a Hutchinson, MN drug crime lawyer immediately. Given the nature of the offense, an attorney may be able to get you out of confinement before the official booking paperwork is processed.

Establishing Possession in Court

Overturning the arrest is only part of the job for a Hutchinson, MN drug crime lawyer. Next, an attorney must take on the possession charges in court. There are basically two lines of defense.

Many CBD oil and marijuana possession cases involve search warrant exceptions. Most police officers do not bother to obtain warrants in misdemeanor possession cases. Some common search warrant exceptions include:

  • Consent: Owners or apparent owners may consent to property searches. Apparent owners are people like roommates who are not on the lease. Generally, a vehicle passenger is not an apparent owner. Additionally, consent is limited. Even a homeowner cannot consent to a search of a locked container in a roommate’s bedroom.
  • Plain View: Officers who are lawfully in a certain place may seize any contraband they see in plain view. Often, the best way a Hutchinson, MN drug crime lawyer can challenge a plain view seizure is to challenge the reasonable suspicion for the stop.
  • Automobile Search: People have a lower expectation of privacy in their cars than in their homes. So, if officers have probable cause to search a vehicle, they do not need a search warrant.

There are other procedural defenses as well. For example, officers may not give the defendant his/her Miranda rights at the proper time.

Additionally, the legal definition of possession may be an issue. In addition to proximity, McLeod County prosecutors must also establish:

  • Knowledge: It is not enough to know that something illegal is under a car seat. It may not even be enough to know that there are drugs under the car seat. The knowledge requirement is fairly stringent.
  • Control: In a vehicle, it’s very difficult for someone in the back seat to control something in the front seat. The same thing applies to people who pass a joint at a party.

In a POM case, the state must establish proximity, knowledge, and control beyond any reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard of proof in American law.

Hutchinson, MN Drug Crime Lawyers and POM Resolutions

Attorneys often leverage these defenses during pretrial negotiations. If the evidence is weak enough, and the defendant only had a small amount of weed, prosecutors may dismiss the case outright.

Additionally, McLeod County offers a number of pretrial diversion programs. The requirements vary in different courts. Generally, if defendants jump through a few hoops, like performing community service and attending a class, prosecutors will dismiss the charges.

In each case, the defendant has no conviction record. And, if a Hutchinson, MN drug crime lawyer overturned the arrest, the defendant may get through this ordeal with neither an arrest nor a conviction record.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Even after January 2020, possessing CBD oil could get you into trouble, and an experienced Hutchinson, MN drug crime lawyer could get you out of trouble. For assertive representation, call Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several offices in the area.

Five Types of Prescription Drug Crimes

In the 1980s and 1990s, the decades-old war on drugs appeared to be working. Illegal drug use was still rather frequent. But it was no longer socially acceptable, at least for the most part, to “experiment” with powerful narcotics, like cocaine, or hallucinogens, such as LSD.

But then, along came the opioid epidemic. A number of developments fueled this crisis. But perhaps most importantly, Oxycontin, Fentanyl, and other prescription painkillers were legal. They were just as strong, or even stronger, than morphine or heroin. But they did not involve shady transactions on dark street corners. They just required a doctor’s note and a trip to the corner pharmacy. Today, roughly 12 million Americans misuse prescription drugs every year.

These cultural and medical changes have caused legal changes as well. Buffalo drug crime lawyers still deal with many cocaine, LSD, and other illegal drug cases. But Wright County prosecutors aggressively pursue prescription drug charges. Typically, these infractions are serious felonies, even if the allegations only involve a handful of pills.

Possession

Opioid painkillers are all controlled substances in Minnesota. It’s illegal to possess them without a valid prescription. The good news is that most prescription drugs are Schedule II or Schedule III drugs, as opposed to more serious Schedule I drugs. So, Buffalo drug crime lawyers can often engineer pretrial diversion resolutions, especially if the defendant has a substance abuse problem.

Program specifications vary, but in most Wright County pretrial diversion plans, the defendant must pay a small fee and complete some program requirements, like a class or community service. Then, prosecutors dismiss the charges.

But pretrial diversion is not a giveaway. Prosecutors often offer it in drug possession cases because they are difficult to prove in court. In addition to proximity, prosecutors must also prove:

  • Knowledge and
  • Control.

Because of these additional elements, Buffalo drug crime lawyers can often beat drug possession charges in court. That’s especially true because the state must prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

Use

A prescription drug use case is a little like a circumstantial evidence DUI prosecution. Since there is no Breathalyzer test for opioids, prosecutors must use circumstantial evidence to prove that the defendant was under the influence of prescription drugs while operating a motor vehicle. This circumstantial evidence includes:

  • Glassy eyes,
  • Open pill bottle near the defendant,
  • Current prescriptions, and
  • Statements the defendant makes to officers or investigators.

In “drugged driving” cases, prosecutors need not establish that the prescription drugs were illegally obtained. Even if the defendant drove under the influence of legally obtained opioids, the defendant is still guilty of at least a misdemeanor. If there were aggravating circumstances, such as prior convictions, the offense could be a felony.

DUI, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or some combination thereof, also has significant collateral consequences. Drivers’ license suspension and higher auto insurance rates are two good examples. A Buffalo drug crime lawyer may be able to reduce or eliminate some or all of these collateral consequences.

Sale

Prescription drug sale is something of a misnomer. Prescription drug transfer, not just a monetary sale, is illegal. Giving a pill to a friend or relative is usually a felony. The same punishment applies to indirect recipient-instigated sales (e.g. since you gave me some Vicodin I’ll take you to lunch). To elevate charges from simple possession to sale or transfer, prosecutors look for circumstantial evidence in the police report, such as:

  • Cash,
  • Pills outside of prescription bottles,
  • Unusually large quantity of medicine, and
  • Admissions that the defendant makes to investigators or arresting officers.

Prescription drug sale cases are harder for Buffalo drug crime lawyers to defend. The aforementioned additional possession elements do not come into play here, and prosecutors rarely offer pretrial diversion in felony cases.

Forgery

Depending on the amount and type of medicine, prescription drug forgery can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Some common forgery crimes include:

  • Fabricating a prescription,
  • Impersonating a doctor or doctor’s office when the pharmacist calls to confirm the prescription,
  • Altering specific information, like the dosage or number of refills, and
  • Tampering with or altering a prescription label.

Essentially, forgery is misrepresenting a material fact to gain something. Typically, these elements are easy to prove in court.

Fraud

Prescription drug fraud is commonly known as doctor-shopping. If a doctor refuses to prescribe pain pills for a minor injury or declines to refill a prescription, some people go to different doctors until they find one that prescribes what they want.

Connect with Dedicated Attorneys

Prescription drug crimes mean big trouble. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo drug crimes lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Our attorneys have over a half-century of combined experience.

Lawmakers Begin Marijuana Legalization Debate

Several new House bills would legalize weed, and also expunge drug possession records. While these measures enjoy broad support in the House and new Gov. Tim Walz has indicated he would sign such a bill, legalization still needs to make it past the Senate. Lots of luck with that.

Most of these proposals would not only legalize marijuana possession but also expunge prior criminal records. Marijuana legalization statistics are decidedly mixed. In places where pot is legal, teen marijuana use has declined and so have violent crime rates. But car crash rates have increased and some marijuana-linked psychotropic illnesses, such as schizophrenia and anxiety, have increased as well.

Based on this record, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he would oppose these measures if they cleared the House. “I am open to having a hearing and work through the process, but the more data I find, personally, the more I’m opposed to it,” he remarked.

Marijuana Laws in Minnesota

Legally, the Gopher State basically has a marijuana cliff. In Wright County, a dozen joints is pretty much the cutoff between a slap on the wrist and a very serious felony.

Possession of under 42.5 grams, which is about twelve to fourteen joints, is a petty misdemeanor. There is no possible jail time, which means no probation or court supervision. The maximum punishment is a $200 fine and a drug education course. Possession over 42.5 grams is a felony (maximum five years in prison and $5,000 fine). So, one joint or dime bag makes a big difference.

Put another way, if an officer sees you smoking a joint on a street corner, it is most likely a traffic ticket. But if officers find your stash or break up your party, you need a really good Buffalo criminal defense lawyer.

To reach the stash or break up the party, under the Constitution, officers need search warrants. But since warrants generally involve substantial investments of time and money (confidential informants usually do not work for free), officers rarely obtain them in marijuana cases, unless they want to dismantle a large distribution ring.

However, there are some search warrant exceptions. Some common exceptions which Buffalo criminal defense lawyers deal with in marijuana cases include:

  • Exigent Circumstances: Officers often use this exception to gain access to a property without a warrant. If officers believe that there is an emergency on the premises, they may go inside and make sure that everyone is okay. So, if two guys scuffle at a party and a neighbor reports a “disturbance,” rest assured that Buffalo police officers will bust down the door.
  • Consent: A house or property owner may allow officers to “have a look around.” Even if the consenting party lacked authority, such as a roommate whose name is not on the lease, the subsequent search and seizure may still be valid.
  • Plain View: Once they are in a house or pull over a car, officers may seize any contraband they see in plain view. If they smell marijuana, they usually look a bit more closely. Since they have probable cause, or at least reasonable suspicion, most Wright County judges allow the heightened plain view search.

If officers did not have a warrant and a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer proves the exception does not apply, the judge may throw out the case. And, even if the prosecutor refiles charges and starts over, the same procedural defect remains.

Can a Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Beat These Charges?

Absolutely. In possession cases, officers normally arrest everyone in at the party or everyone in the car if they find any weed. But in this context, “proximity” is not the same thing as “possession.” In addition to proximity, a Wright County prosecutor must also establish:

  • Knowledge: The defendant must know that there was marijuana in the car or at the party. So, a defendant could literally be sitting on a dime bag and not possess it in a legal sense. General knowledge that “something illegal is in the glovebox” is insufficient.
  • Control: Moreover, the defendant must have actual or potential control over the drugs. People in the back seat usually cannot possess something in the front seat, especially if the car is packed with people. Similarly, if someone is smoking marijuana outside, people in the living room cannot possess it.

Another defense involves the type of marijuana seized. The drugs must be a useable quantity of marijuana. Burnt residue usually does not count. This defense is important in borderline petty misdemeanor/serious felony cases.

Sentencing Alternatives

If the defendant has a decent defense, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can often engineer a favorable plea bargain agreement. Almost all criminal cases, upwards of 95 percent by most counts, settle out of court in this way.

In a misdemeanor, prosecutors normally offer pretrial diversion. If the defendant pays a small fee, completes a class, and jumps through a few other hoops, prosecutors normally dismiss the case. The arrest record remains, but a marijuana arrest is a lot less damaging than a marijuana conviction.

In a felony, deferred adjudication may be available. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the prosecutor dismisses the charges. This procedure has some significant cons as well, so discuss your options carefully with a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer.

Connect with Experienced Attorneys

Marijuana is still illegal in Minnesota, and it looks like it may stay that way for awhile. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

How Do Brainerd Lawyers Beat Drug Charges?

Under various names and iterations, the “war on drugs” has been in full force since 1914. That was when Congress passed the first-of-its-kind Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. Since the number of arrests is the only real yardstick of victory, Minnesota law enforcement agencies make as many arrests as they can.

Because of this intense pressure, law enforcement sometimes takes shortcuts during the arrest process. These shortcuts sometimes give Brainerd lawyers major tactical advantages when these cases get closer to trial.

However, even if there are no defenses, it may be possible to have the case dismissed. U.S. drug policy has softened somewhat in recent years, and the legal process in Crow Wing County reflects these changes.

Brainerd Lawyers, Search Warrants, and Related Issues

In major methamphetamine and other drug interdictions, the search warrant is usually the culmination of weeks or months of investigation. By this time, multiple agencies have often invested thousands of man hours into the effort. So, in the final rush to “get the bad guy,” illegal shortcuts are common.

Under the Fourth Amendment, officers must have probable cause to obtain search warrants. That probable cause almost always comes from an informer’s tip. Prior to 1983, the Supreme Court used a set system to evaluate these tips. But today, Crow Wing County judges use a totality of the circumstances analysis. They evaluate these tips based on several different factors, including:

  • Specificity: Does the warrant affidavit contain general information about suspected drug transactions in a certain neighborhood? Or, does the affidavit rely on specific instances that the informer actually witnessed and information that the informer actually knows?
  • Time: Drug transaction tips have extremely short shelf lives. Information that may have been accurate on Monday is often completely outdated by Wednesday.
  • Source: Police officers often pay tipsters thousands of dollars for inside information. In many cases, such fees are justifiable, because these tipsters sometimes risk everything to provide information. But in many other cases, huge sums of money simply cast a shadow over the information provided.

The ends never justify the means in these cases. Brainerd lawyers can never argue that the tip must have been valid because it turned out to be accurate. Informers tips stand, or fail, based on their own merits.

Probable cause is not enough. The search warrant must also be specific as to the items to search for and the places to search. Unless a search warrant exception applies, if the warrant states that drugs are in the garage, officers cannot look for guns in the living room.

The list of search warrant exceptions is quite extensive. In fact, the exceptions may swallow the general rule. Some common ones include:

  • Consent: Many people do not know that if an officer asks to search your house or car, they have an absolute right to say “no.” Officers usually threaten to get warrants in these situations. But many times, that’s just a bluff. If the officer had probable cause for a warrant, the officer probably wouldn’t ask for consent.
  • Plain View: If officers see contraband in plain view, they may seize it. This exception assumes that the officer has the legal right to be in that place. In the aforementioned garage/living room example, the officers probably do not have the legal right to be in the living room, as it is completely separate from the garage.

Other search warrant exceptions, which do not come up in drug cases very often, include the weapons pat-down and exigent circumstances exceptions.

Many times, officers try to blow up drug possession cases into drug trafficking cases. They do so by seizing additional items like:

  • Firearms,
  • Scales,
  • Baggies, and
  • Cash.

Warrant specificity may be an issue. If the warrant says “drugs,” Brainerd lawyers can object if officers search for something else. Additionally, there is sometimes no connection between drugs and trafficking paraphernalia.

Establishing Possession in Court

Drug possession cases have different problems. For example, if an officer seizes drugs in a car’s glove compartment, the officer may arrest every occupant in the car. This approach artificially raises the number of drug-related arrests.

But such police dragnets often do not hold up in court. There is more to possession than mere proximity. Prosecutors must also establish the following:

  • Knowledge: The defendant must know that there were drugs in the glove compartment. This knowledge must be specific and credible. Knowledge that “something illegal is in the glove compartment” is insufficient, as is speculation from a fellow passenger.
  • Accessibility: Many glove boxes have locks. If the prosecutor cannot prove that the glove compartment was unlocked, there may be insufficient evidence on this point. The same result may apply if the defendant was in the back seat of the car.

The consent exception is sometimes an issue in auto search cases. Officers must obtain consent from someone with apparent authority. In most cases, that means the driver.

Call Today To Speak With A Brainerd Criminal Defense Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

Drug cases are in no way “slam dunk” convictions. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

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