One of the most remarkable developments of the past decade has been the sea change in attitudes toward recreational drug use. After decades of investing money and manpower in the infamous war on drugs, many governments at the regional and national levels have begun to explore alternatives to a zero-tolerance approach.
But even as states and countries move to legalize drugs like cannabis, possession of other substances like cocaine and heroin remains a serious criminal matter with far-reaching consequences. To that end, here are three things you need to know about drug charges.
1. Drug Charges Can Haunt You for Life
It’s an unfortunate truth that under our legal system a few poor decisions made in your teenage or young adult years can end up having tragic consequences. In jurisdictions that have mandatory minimums for drug crime, even simple possession charges can mean facing years in prison.
Even after you’re released, having drug offenses on your permanent record can make you ineligible for certain jobs, and make it harder to find work.
2. Aggravating Factors Can Lead to Stiffer Penalties
While most people understand that being caught with any amount of an illegal substance is a serious issue, what you may not know is that the circumstances in which you were caught can also play a major role in determining your sentencing — and if there are judged to be aggravating factors, can lead to stiffer penalties.
For example, in many places all of the following are considered to be aggravating factors that can automatically add years to a sentence:
Offenses involving violence or the threat of violence
Offenses involving abuse of authority or position
Offenses that take place on or near school grounds
Offenses involving youth (particularly selling to youth)
If prosecutors can prove that any of these factors were in play, it can make fighting the charges even harder.
3. Drug Charges Can Be Fought in Court
The good news is that just because you’ve been charged with drug crimes doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. No matter what circumstances the charges were laid under, you are under no obligation to plead guilty, and should always seek the advice of a lawyer before talking to the police.
In many cases, mitigating factors can shed new light on the case, which is why it is so important to know your criminal rights and make sure you are represented by experienced criminal lawyers who can fight for your acquittal, or get the charge reduced.
Given the seriousness with which the law treats most drug offenses, making sure you explore all avenues in your defense is essential if you want to avoid doing a hard time.
While many states, provinces, and countries are opting to liberalize their drug laws, arrests for drug-related offenses remain remarkably high. Being charged with possession or trafficking can still have a devastating impact on your life, leading to a jail sentence and a permanent record.
Fortunately, just because you have been charged does not necessarily mean you will be found guilty. Hiring an experienced criminal lawyer who understands the drug laws of your province or state is the best way to ensure that you will get a fair hearing and that a youthful indiscretion does not end up defining your life.
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