A drug trafficking conviction can be life-changing, as it will likely carry a lengthy prison sentence, substantial fines, and a criminal record that will haunt you long after you’ve served your time. Worse, Texas has some of the most severe drug trafficking laws in the country, so as a Texas resident it is important that you understand the gravity of these charges and how much more serious they are than mere possession.
If you have been charged with trafficking or distribution, it is paramount that you contact a criminal defense attorney with a proven track record in drug trafficking cases as soon as possible. Being proactive early in the process will help to ensure that your rights are protected, and that you do not inadvertently incriminate yourself during questioning.
Below you will find some of the common defenses for fighting drug trafficking charges. Your attorney can help you determine which are most relevant to your case.
Lack of probable cause or search warrant
Lack of probable cause or illegal search is one of the most common defenses for drug crime charges. In fact, even if you are not currently facing a drug charge, we advise familiarizing yourself with these laws, as knowing your rights can sometimes help you avoid an arrest altogether.
In order to conduct a search of your person or vehicle, police must have a warrant or probable cause to do so. For example, if you are pulled over in a routine traffic stop, the police cannot search your car unless you appear to be intoxicated, or there is another reason to conduct a search, for example the smell of marijuana smoke. If you are on foot, evidence of criminal activity must be apparent for police to conduct a search of your person.
In order to search your home, workplace or other domicile, police must convince a neutral magistrate that there is probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring, and obtain a search warrant. If the police come to your residence and ask to come inside, ask to see the search warrant first, as they must legally have a warrant in order to enter your home and conduct a search.
If law enforcement asks to search your person, vehicle, or home without a warrant or probable cause – known as a consent search – you have the right to say no, which you can and should exercise by calmly and politely declining.
If you are already facing charges, carefully describe the circumstances of your arrest to your attorney, who can help to determine if the arrest and/or search was conducted legally.
If your charge involved undercover law enforcement officers or informants, your attorney may be able to make a case for entrapment.
There are two components of a good entrapment defense, known as inducement and predisposition. If police used coercion or persuasion to induce you to commit a crime, this is known as inducement. Note that simply asking you to commit the crime or lying about certain facts does not necessarily constitute inducement.
The prosecution must also prove that the defendant had a predisposition to commit the crime, or in other words was willing and able to do so. For example, if you had never engaged in or discussed drug trafficking before, prosecution may not be able to establish predisposition.
However, if you have a prior history of drug trafficking or other drug-related charges, an entrapment defense may backfire, as prosecution can cite prior convictions as evidence of predisposition. If the court holds that this is a fair and relevant response, the jury is made aware of your criminal history. This can not only compromise the entrapment defense, but can also present additional damaging evidence to the jury, which might not otherwise be admissible.
Possession or ownership of substances
In some cases, your attorney may be able to establish reasonable doubt that you were in intentional possession of the substances you were allegedly intending to distribute. The prosecution must prove that you had control and intent over where the drug was placed.
For example, if someone else stashed the drugs in your vehicle or on your person without your knowledge, or if you borrowed a vehicle that contained drugs without your knowledge, then it may be reasonable to argue that you were not intentionally in possession of the contraband.
As required by the Texas Health and Safety Code Section 481.002(38), the prosecution must prove that you exercised care, custody and control over the contraband, and that you knew what particular substance you were in possession of.
Want to learn more about potential defenses that may be available to you? Reach out to our office as soon as possible.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.