Rhode Island Drug Crimes Lawyer
The War on Drugs has been with us for over 40 years now and is the foremost reason behind the regrettable fact that the United States has the largest prisoner population on the planet. While this offense has largely been a social and political failure, and despite the fact that drug laws in some states have been recently liberalized, draconian drug laws will continue to haunt the legal landscape by being vigorously enforced far into the foreseeable future.
Statistics from the Rhode Island Department of Corrections show that in 2009, 13 percent of all state inmates were incarcerated for a drug crime. Everything from simple drug possession to drug distribution can earn a lengthy prison sentence, even if your criminal record was clean prior to this arrest.
Aggressive prosecution is the norm, even if the drug crime in question was of a non-violent nature. The result is an increase in drug crime as well as an increase in those facing criminal charges. If you are facing drug related charges it’s best to consult a Rhode Island drug crime attorney for any questions regarding your case – The Criminal Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy can represent you and fight for your rights.
Federal Drug Laws
While federal drug enforcement tends to focus on larger drug enterprises that spill across state lines, any drug offense in the state also raises the possibility of federal charges. In many ways, federal laws are harsher than the state’s laws. Federal penalties can run to many years in prison, even life, as well as fines that can range into the millions if you are a third-strike offender or were selling drugs to underage children.
Types of Drug Crimes in Rhode Island
Rhode Island statutes describe the many types of drug crimes and their punishment upon conviction. The laws address controlled substances that are listed in several different schedules, and describe the specific activities involving those drugs that are criminal. The primary criminal activities are:
- Possession (simple possession)
- Possession with the intent to distribute
Factors that determine the severity of the offense and the punishment if convicted include:
- Whether the drug is a schedule I or schedule II narcotic.
- Prior convictions on your record.
- Whether the defendant is an addict.
- The amount of the drug in possession.
Rhode Island has decriminalized the possession of small amounts (up to an ounce) of marijuana. Under the new law, that’s merely a civil matter punishable by fine and community service. Larger amounts are still criminal matters, and very large amounts are punishable by serious penalties.
The fact that the drug you’re accused of possessing is a prescription drug doesn’t necessarily protect you. Prescription drugs are controlled substances (that’s why you need the prescription), and Rhode Island’s drug law specifically makes it a crime to possess any controlled substance unless you got it “directly from” or “pursuant to” a prescription or order that was validly issued by “a practitioner” who was, at the time, acting in the ordinary course of his/her professional practice.”
You’re still committing a crime by possessing drugs that were prescribed for someone else, or that were obtained with a forged prescription.
Types of Drug Crime Defense
In general, defenses to drug crimes fall into one of several categories:
- Improper police and prosecutor conduct.
- Questions about the drugs involved.
- Whether the state has proved that you really were involved in the activity for which you have been charged.
Improper conduct defenses include:
- The validity of the search which turned up the drugs, and/or the initial stop, if a vehicle stop was involved (while defendant protections have been eroded, there still has to be a “reasonable” basis for the stop and the search).
- Entrapment; if you only did what you’re charged with because the police pushed or somehow induced you to do it, there isn’t any criminal intent on your part.
- Violations of post-arrest procedures, like speedy trial requirements.
Defenses related to the drugs themselves include:
- Whether the substance you are accused of having, selling, etc. really is the substance the state claims it is.
- Whether the amount of the drug is what the state claims it is (which can affect the severity of the crime and sentence).
Defenses related to proof of your involvement include:
- Claims that you didn’t know you were carrying a drug; this happens with some frequency as drug dealers dupe others into carrying and delivering what they think is an innocent package.
- Challenges to the evidence that you were actually in “possession” of the drugs; this comes up frequently when the drugs were merely in “the vicinity” of the defendant in a car or building.
- Challenges to the evidence that you intended to sell or distribute the drug; intent is notoriously difficult to prove, though large amounts of drugs make the state’s case easier.
Any number of other defenses may be available depending on the facts of the case.
Contact our Rhode Island Drug Crime Attorney
Criminal drug possession charges can arise from holding both illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin, or, by holding totally legal drugs without a valid prescription. Examples of prescription drugs that lend themselves to illegal use/abuse and consumption are common barbiturates, anti-depressants, oxycontin and sleeping pills. Penalties for such offenses are calculated based upon the quantity and type of the illegal substance involved and can escalate depending upon the venue in which the offense occurs. Generally, consumption in the privacy of one’s home is deemed less culpable than in a school, workplace or other public environment.
Even the least severe drug crimes leave a stain on your record and your reputation, complicating employment and many other activities. The more serious crimes can end up taking away your freedom for many years. The aid of a truly experienced Rhode Island criminal defense attorney is your best weapon to fight back. While your attorney of choice is obviously important, how you work with them is equally critical too.
Be sure you provide our criminal defense lawyer with the following details:
- If you were accused of buying drugs, do police have enough evidence to send to the prosecution to make the charges stick?
- If you were accused of selling drugs, what evidence does law enforcement have that is all but irrefutable?
- If you were found with drugs in your possession, were you holding them for someone else? Another area to discuss, were the drugs planted on you? If it is the latter scenario, you may be able to clear your name with the help of a sound criminal defense attorney in Rhode Island.
- If you have a criminal record, be sure to go over any convictions, especially if there are any tied to drugs.
Keep in mind that just a single drug conviction could set you back personally and professionally for years to come.
Rhode Island drug crime attorney, Stefanie A. Murphy, has years of experience defending people who have been charged with drug crimes. Stefanie knows how the state proceeds in these cases, where the weaknesses in their case are likely to be, which defenses are most likely to succeed and how to negotiate with the prosecution. Those charged with drug crimes still deserve respect for their rights and a good defense. Call the Law Offices of Stefanie A. Murphy today to schedule a free consultation.