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Frequently Asked Questions about Drug Charges
Q: What does a "grand jury" do in a drug case?
A: A grand jury is a group of people called together by the prosecutor to gather information about suspected criminal activity by listening to testimony from witnesses and examining documents and other evidence. At the end of the proceeding, the grand jury decides whether there is enough evidence to put the defendant on trial for the drug charges. Grand juries are more likely to be convened in connection with more serious and complicated drug crimes, like conducting a drug-related criminal enterprise.
Q: How does the prosecutor decide which drug cases to pursue?
A: The first thing the prosecutor looks for is a legally sound case, or one without any obvious defects that will get it thrown out of court, such as violations of the defendant's constitutional rights or destruction of evidence crucial to the defense. The prosecutor next decides if there is enough evidence, with regard to both the quantity and the quality thereof, to make conviction probable. Finally, the prosecutor decides if prosecuting the case fits in with the office's policy objectives, or whether a more informal disposition, like drug counseling or treatment, may be in order.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports estimated that in 2002 there were a total of 1,538,800 state and local arrests for drug violations in the United States. If you are one of the many facing drug charges this year, it is imperative that you seek legal counsel at once.
The drug crime lawyers at the Van Nuys, Southern California law office of Eisner Gorin LLP, are former criminal trial prosecutors and State Bar Certified Criminal Trial Specialists with years of courtroom experience defending people facing drug charges at the state or federal level. We have a licensed investigator on site in our office suite to help us prove our case and get the best possible outcomes for our clients facing felony or misdemeanor drug charges for possession, possession with intent to sell, or drug trafficking. When it's time for an aggressive defense, count on Eisner Gorin LLP. Contact our office by e-mail, or call toll-free at 877-781-1570 for a prompt response.
If you've been charged with a drug crime, don't talk to the police first. Talk to us. We speak English, Russian, Armenian, Spanish, Farsi, and Hebrew.
Drug Charges - An Overview
Drug charges cover a broad range of offenses, from the less severe, like simple possession of a small amount of certain drugs, to the more serious, such as participation in an ongoing drug-related criminal enterprise or manufacturing and distributing drugs. Even minor charges can be terrifying, however, and carry the risk of serious penalties upon conviction; the more serious charges, of course, can give rise to even graver consequences.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can take some of the terror out of drug charges by answering questions and guiding an accused offender through the complex legal maze that awaits.
Federal Drug Charges
The United States judicial system is divided into state and federal courts. Whether a person accused of a drug-related crime is prosecuted in the federal or state criminal system depends on what laws were violated and the policies and procedures of each court system. Out of the millions of felony prosecutions filed each year, only about three percent are filed in the federal system. Often a particular criminal behavior will violate both a state and a federal law, and drug charges are no exception. In theory, the offender could be prosecuted in both systems for the same criminal activity, but in practice this rarely happens. Most federal and state prosecutors divide up criminal charges based on availability of resources, which statute most closely fits the criminal conduct, available punishment in each system, and each system's policy considerations. If accused of a drug charge, it is crucial to contact an attorney who understands both systems through long experience.
Searches & Seizures in Drug Cases
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects an individual against unreasonable searches and seizures of his or her person or property. A search may involve an inspection of the person or his or her surroundings or property, and seizure refers to taking the person or property into police custody. Usually, but not always, if a seizure is invalid, it is because the seizure was preceded by an invalid search.
In many drug cases, the arrest and evidence used to support a conviction generally results from a search and seizure. If the constitutional limits were not applied to the government's conduct, however, the evidence may be deemed inadmissible and the charges may be dismissed or unprovable. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise his or her clients on whether the evidence leading to a drug charge may have resulted from an improper search or seizure and answer all other questions regarding the criminal justice process in drug cases.
The Role of the Grand Jury in Drug Cases
The Fifth Amendment mandates that charges for all capital and "infamous" crimes be brought by an indictment returned by a grand jury. The Amendment has been interpreted to require an indictment to charge all federal felonies, including federal drug charges, unless a defendant waives his or her right to be indicted. The Supreme Court has concluded, however, that states are not bound by this part of the Fifth Amendment. Although legal counsel for the person at the center of the proceedings and for witnesses testifying in front of the grand jury cannot be in the grand jury room, an experienced criminal law attorney can provide advice outside of the presence of the jury and explain the grand jury process, taking some of the mystery and terror out of this procedure.
Why Treatment May Be Better than Incarceration for Drug Offenders
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it costs a national average of over $20,000 per year to incarcerate a criminal offender. With about 150,000 inmates currently incarcerated on drug possession charges, the United States is spending nearly $3,000,000 each year to imprison these people. Further, research has indicated that every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yields a return of between four and seven dollars in reduced drug-related crime, criminal justice costs, and theft. With such impressive savings at stake, more courts are looking at drug treatment versus imprisonment when sentencing drug offenders. Experienced criminal law attorneys can describe the treatment options available to drug offenders in their states and push for those options instead of imprisonment.