With an increase in the number of employers performing random drug tests for marijuana and other drugs, more and more individuals are turning to synthetic forms of these drugs for a legal high. However, each year, state legislatures pass laws criminalizing certain new drugs -- and some states are even attempting to make this possession a felony offense. What can you do if you've been arrested and charged with possession of a synthetic drug that was once legal? Read on to learn more about how these drugs are treated by states and what you can do to defend yourself once charged.
Why are synthetic drugs illegal?
Most synthetic drugs were once legal for purchase in each state. To ensure that the manufacturer would be exempt from any liability from ingestion or smoking of these drugs, they were marketed for external use only. However, as users (particularly teen users) have suffered negative side effects or even death from use of these drugs, state legislatures have taken aim at these drugs, changing laws to render them illegal. Despite their illegal status, many individuals continue to use these drugs as most commercially available drug tests still do not test for these specific metabolites, allowing users to pass pre-employment or random drug tests while still enjoying an illicit high.
What should you do if you've been criminally charged with possession of a synthetic drug?
Criminal penalties for use or possession of a synthetic drug can change quickly. If you've been arrested and charged with possession of one of these drugs, you'll need to quickly mount a defense in order to avoid a permanent criminal record.
Your first step should be to consult an experienced drug defense attorney. If you don't think you can afford an attorney, you can request that the court appoint one for you. Your attorney will be able to evaluate the facts of your case and determine whether your best bet is to fight the charge in court or negotiate a plea bargain that may allow you to avoid a criminal conviction or jail time.
Depending upon the circumstances of the arrest, you may be able to successfully fight against the admissibility of certain evidence. Whether you were stopped and frisked on the street or arrested following a vehicle stop by a police officer, the officer needed probable cause in order to search you. Without this probable cause, any items found on your person may not be admitted into evidence in a criminal trial. Your attorney may attack the officer's statement of probable cause in order to have the seizure of the drug thrown out -- as without physical evidence of the drug on your person, it's difficult for the prosecution to establish that you were ever in possession of this drug.
Another potential defense is to argue that the drug itself is not illicit. If the amount of the drug seized is too small to test to determine precisely what it is -- or if the police department never bothered to test the drug -- you may be able to argue that the prosecution has not proven you were in possession of an illegal drug.
If these defenses may be weak in your specific situation, you might instead want to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor or district attorney. Usually, a plea bargain will require you to plead guilty to the crime in exchange for a reduced sentence or the dismissal of more serious charges against you. If you don't have a criminal record and the amount of drugs seized is relatively small, you might be able to negotiate the dismissal of the underlying charge in exchange for time served and payment of fines and court costs.