Regardless of how they came into your possession, getting caught in possession of drugs can be terrifying. If you’re not careful, this incident could land you in prison.
What should you do if a law enforcement officer arrests you?
Understand Drug Possession Laws
Drug possession laws are going to vary by area, but the general formula is always the same. To be prosecuted for drug possession, prosecutors must prove two things:
- That the drugs in question are illegal or are a controlled substance, and that you knew they were illegal.
- That you knowingly had possession of those drugs.
Different states define these terms in different ways and pursue prosecution in different ways. You don’t need a thorough understanding of the law at this point, however; a basic understanding is enough context to get you through the rest of this guide.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Immediately
It’s vital to contact a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. Your criminal defense lawyer will help you in several ways.
First, they’ll serve as a form of protection for you. They’ll be with you during your arrest and interrogation, monitoring the police and holding them accountable. This will ensure you’re treated fairly and that your case is handled responsibly.
Second, they’re going to educate you on the nature of the law, the drug charges you face, and what your options are. Because the law is notoriously tricky (and inaccessible to the majority of the population), this can make a huge difference.
Third, your criminal defense lawyer will provide you with advice. You’ll learn the best way forward in this situation, you’ll get to understand your options, and you’ll be able to set new expectations for how this case is going to develop.
If the case goes to trial, your lawyer will continue to be on your side, representing you in court.
Don’t Say Anything (If Possible)
The police are not on your side, even if they imply that they are. Police officers will likely try to extract a confession, or incriminating evidence from you, at all costs. You must resist this as much as possible by remaining quiet.
We’re all familiar with the Miranda Rights introduction from popular culture: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
Heed this advice. Even if it doesn’t seem like you’re saying something self-incriminating, your speech can be distorted to illustrate you as a guilty party. Phrases like, “I don’t know where that came from” may feel defensive, or that they’re protecting you in some way, but this is far from a guarantee – especially if you end up caught in a lie.
You aren’t required to talk to the police. You aren’t required to answer their questions. Feel free to provide personal details if asked, such as your name and phone number, but in all other contexts, your best strategy is to keep your mouth shut.
Remain Calm and Compliant
It’s natural to feel anxious, worried, or even afraid when being arrested with drugs in your possession. But it’s also important to remain calm.
If you allow your emotions to get the better of you, you might attempt to fight back against arresting officers, overreact to basic questions, or otherwise get yourself in deeper trouble. You’ll have every chance to explain yourself and mount a defense – so don’t try to fight charges on the street or at the police station. Instead, politely comply with your arresting officers’ requests and try to establish a calm demeanor while you do it. Think through all your decisions logically and carefully.
Don’t Put Anything in Writing
Staying quiet is advice that extends to the written word. If the police ask you to sign anything, don’t. If they ask you to write something down (such as an explanation of your version of events), don’t. Wait for your lawyer to arrive before you do anything in writing.
Insist on Your Rights
You have the right to talk to a lawyer. You also have the right to remain silent, along with a host of other rights. Be polite and firm in insisting on these rights. Don’t let the police talk you out of them or imply that you must do something different.
Getting arrested is an experience that could change your life forever. At the very least, it’s a scary and uncertain time. But as long as you follow the basic points of this article and start talking to a lawyer as soon as possible, you’ll maximize your chances of walking away unscathed.