What Should You Do When You Are Accused Of A Drug Crime In Pennsylvania?

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Philip Masorti - Criminal Defense - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Philip Masorti

Located in State College, PAMasorti Law Group

State College, PA
Phone: 406-420-3639
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Some of the most common crimes in the United States are drug offenses. One source estimates that as many as 1.6 million people were arrested on drug-related charges in 2017, with many of these people serving jail or prison time for their crimes. 

When you are arrested for a drug crime, you should always remain calm and maintain all of your records and evidence so you can present the strongest possible defense when your case begins. There are many valid defenses to drug crime charges, as long as there is evidence to back up your claim. Always cooperate and remain respectful toward law enforcement and prosecutors, and trust in your criminal defense attorney to use the evidence available to make a solid defense on your behalf. 

Every case is different. Consider all of the following questions when trying to figure out what to do after your arrest. 

What happened during the search? 

If police suspect that you are committing a drug crime, they will try to search your property (including your house or vehicle) for evidence. Police are only allowed to conduct a search in one of these specific circumstances: 

  • You consent to the search.
  • They have a warrant to conduct a search.
  • There is probable cause to believe you are guilty of the crime. 

Police typically do not have a warrant handy, at least not right away, as the process of obtaining a warrant can be arduous and time-consuming. Without a warrant, they are only allowed to search your property if you give them permission or if they have probable cause. 

Probable cause can be a difficult standard to reach. The police officer must have evidence that is sufficient enough for a reasonable person to believe you committed a crime. Note that this evidence must be based on fact, not mere suspicion. However, anything that you have out in plain sight could be used to establish probable cause to search the rest of your property. If you have drug paraphernalia sitting in your passenger seat, for example, an officer may see it and have probable cause to search your vehicle for the drugs themselves. 

Without probable cause or a warrant, police must have consent to conduct a search on your property. Many times, officers will try to coerce or intimidate you into giving consent for a search, but you should always know your rights. Denying a search cannot be used as evidence to prove your guilt. For these reasons, you should always refuse a search of your property. 

If police searched your vehicle unlawfully, any evidence they obtain has to be excluded from your case. This could result in your charges being reduced, or eliminated entirely. 

What happened when you were arrested? 

Police cannot arrest just anybody. Law enforcement can only arrest you in one of the following situations: 

  • They saw you commit a crime.
  • They have probable cause to believe you committed a crime.
  • They have an arrest warrant. 

In many situations, the police will not have a warrant for your arrest. This means police either must have seen you commit the crime, or they have probable cause to believe you committed the crime. 

Note that a mere suspicion that you committed a crime is not enough to make an arrest. Nor can they arrest you for denying a search of your property. If police are asking permission for a search, that means they did not see you commit the crime, and they do not have probable cause to perform the search without your consent. This is important, because this also means they have not met the standard to make an arrest. If police have acted unlawfully, this may help strengthen your defense. 

What steps do you take after you are arrested? 

If police wish to arrest you, act respectfully and remain silent. Any action could make the situation worse. Try your best to remain calm and wait until you arrive at the police station. 

Once you are in the station, you will be allowed one phone call before you are placed in a jail cell. Either call your criminal defense attorney or, if you don’t have an attorney yet, call a family member or loved one to help you find an attorney. If you know you were unlawfully arrested, an attorney can help you assert your rights and go home. 

Always remember you have the right to remain silent. Don’t speak to police or sign any documents without an attorney present. 

Finally, make sure you recount all the details of your story. Once you find the right criminal defense attorney, make sure you relay every detail to them. The slightest misstep by police could unravel their entire case against you, so it is important for your lawyer to know these details. With the right representation, you can rest easier knowing that your case is in safe hands.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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