Cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States and Texas. Every year, hundreds of people in the Greater Houston area are arrested and charged with possession of cocaine. The majority of these cases involve allegations of the possession of small, personal use amounts of cocaine typically under 3 grams. All cocaine possession cases are treated as felonies in Texas so the goal in a possession of cocaine case should be to get the case dismissed and protect your freedom and reputation.
Strategies to Get a Possession of Cocaine Case Dismissed in Houston, Texas
As a former drug prosecutor who has handled thousands of drug cases, I can tell you that there is a lot that an experienced attorney can do to obtain an excellent result and keep a possession of controlled substance case off of your record. This article discusses some of the common ways that a cocaine case can be dismissed.
The Detention or Search That Led to the Cocaine Is Illegal
Under Texas and Federal law, evidence that is obtained illegally, in violation of a defendant’s rights, cannot be used as evidence against a defendant in a possession of controlled substances case. This is known as the exclusionary rule. In the context of drug cases, the exclusionary rule frequently comes up with traffic stops and searches of homes, vehicles or people. The exclusionary rule can also be used to keep out a confession in a drug case, where the confession was obtained illegally, most commonly without the benefit of Miranda warnings.
In a cocaine case – or any possession of controlled substance case – an effective criminal defense attorney should carefully analyze every stage of law enforcement’s actions that led to the discovery of a controlled substance. For example, many cocaine cases begin with traffic stops. A criminal defense attorney should do everything possible to challenge the validity of the stop. In some cases, police officers exaggerate or lie about the justification for the traffic stop. In some cases, a stop might be made solely on the basis of an anonymous tip. Under certain circumstances, an anonymous tip on its own may not be enough to justify a detention. An effective cocaine possession defense attorney should aggressively challenge the stop and never take the word of law enforcement. In addition to traffic stops, some of the most commonly asserted grounds for getting evidence suppressed in possession of cocaine cases include:
- The voluntariness of the consent to search
- The scope of the search (e.g., did the police exceed the area they were permitted to search)
- The validity of any search warrant
- Whether Miranda was read or a statement was coerced
The body of law that covers the exclusionary rule is known as the law of search and seizure. The law of search and seizure is very broad and is constantly changing so it is critical that an attorney handling a cocaine case is familiar with this area of the law.
An “Affirmative Link” Cannot Be Established
A cocaine case can also be dismissed where the State cannot establish that a defendant knowingly possessed cocaine. This is known as an “affirmative link.” In other words, just because a defendant happens to be in a location where cocaine was found does not mean that he knowingly possessed cocaine. The State must establish a link between the cocaine and the defendant based on the circumstances of the arrest.
An effective criminal defense attorney should look closely at the facts and, whenever possible, argue that an affirmative link cannot be established. Some factors used to prove – or disprove – an affirmative link can include:
- Whether the defendant was under the influence of cocaine
- Whether the defendant made any incriminating statements
- Whether the defendant appeared nervous
- Whether the defendant attempted to flee
- Whether there was any evidence of drug use
- Whether any “furtive gestures” were made
- Whether the cocaine was in plain view
- Whether the defendant had exclusive control over the area where the cocaine was found
The Alleged Cocaine is Some Other Substance
Cocaine is a white powder that is known to be “cut” or adulterated by dealers and is visually indistinguishable from countless other controlled substances. Therefore, when a person is arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, the cocaine must be sent to a State laboratory to test the substance to confirm (or disconfirm) whether the substance is actually cocaine. If the substance turns out to not be cocaine, it is possible your case could be dismissed (interestingly, if you thought you possessed cocaine, but you really possessed heroin, or another illegal drug, it is possible that the State could still prosecute you under Texas Penal Code 6.04).
A criminal defense attorney should also challenge the chain of custody. This means that the laboratory should have paperwork reflecting how the alleged cocaine was handled after it was seized by the police. Once drugs are seized by law enforcement, they typically are moved around within an agency and then sent to a lab, where they are once again transferred within the laboratory until they are tested. Poor record keeping is common and it is not unheard of that cocaine is lost or mislabeled. An experienced criminal defense lawyer should always challenge chain of custody in a cocaine case.
Your Attorney Negotiates for Your Possession of Cocaine Case to Be Dismissed or Pre-Trial Intervention
If a defendant has limited criminal history, and the amount of cocaine alleged to be possessed is not large, one common way that a cocaine case can be dismissed in the Houston area is by making a deal with the District Attorney for a pre-trial intervention. A pre-trial intervention is essentially a contract with the State of Texas that the case will be dismissed if certain conditions are met. The conditions involved in a pre-trial intervention can be somewhat similar to probation and can include completion of counseling, community service and potentially a fine.
In a possession of cocaine case, the advantage of a pre-trial diversion is that it is a guaranteed way to get the case dismissed if the conditions are complied with. Once the case is dismissed, a defendant will usually be eligible for an expunction, which is considered to be the best possible result in a possession of cocaine case, as it results in the destruction of all records relating the cocaine arrest. However, an effective cocaine possession attorney will first exhaust all other possibilities for obtaining a dismissal before applying for pre-trial diversion.
Contact Our Houston Cocaine Possession Attorney Today
To maximize your chance of getting your cocaine case dismissed, your attorney should have a clear strategy and several plans and backup plans. If you have been arrested and charged with possession of cocaine anywhere in the Greater Houston area, attorney Jose Ceja would be happy to offer a free consultation to discuss your situation. Contact our office today.