When you get arrested for any kind of drug-related crime, the outcome of your case can depend on your lawyer’s ability to identify police mistakes. You can also help yourself by avoiding making your own mistakes during your arrest. Hiring the right experienced criminal defense attorney is the most important decision you will make following your arrest.
At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, our entire legal practice is focused on defending people accused of serious crimes. Our board-certified criminal defense lawyers concentrate their full attention on the detailed facts of each case and work to ensure that our clients get the full protection guaranteed by the Constitution and their legal rights as provided by Florida law.
Common Mistakes by Defendants in Drug Arrests
When police arrest a person for suspicion of any drug-related crime, it may seem like there is little the suspect can do to help themselves. But even at this early stage in the prosecution, avoiding mistakes can produce valuable benefits. Staying clear of these common errors will strengthen your defense:
Consenting to Search — Police officers can legally pull over a car for even minor traffic infractions. The traffic stop needs to be based on a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal conduct. But once the police stop a car, they often have nothing more than that, suspicion. When the police ask you for permission to search the car, giving your consent to search the car is a major mistake.
If you consent to a police search of your car, or of your house or apartment, you are giving up any opportunity to contest the legality of the search in court. If the police had lawful authority to search, they would not have asked for your permission. If you refuse to consent to the police search, then the police need to rely on another source of authority for the search, and they often are unable to do so. Your criminal defense lawyer can use that fact to help you.
Answering Police Questions or Making a Statement — You have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during any police questioning. But if you don’t “invoke” those rights, you give them up. Everything you say in the presence of police will be used against you in court.
The idea that you will be treated better or rewarded by the criminal justice system if you confess to a crime is misguided and unfounded. Your best defense to any drug crime begins with silence. Trying to talk your way out of trouble or looking for charity or gratitude from police are fools’ errands. Their job is to gather evidence against you.
Remaining silent and refusing to speak until you are with a lawyer is the most effective way to prevent making matters worse. The more you speak to the police, the weaker your defense becomes.
- To invoke your rights, all you need to say is “I want a lawyer before any questions, “or
- “I’m not speaking without a lawyer present.”
No need to be rude, or hostile. Be persistent and then be quiet.
Common Mistakes by Police in Drug Cases
Police need to follow strict procedural rules when they search for, seize, package, and document drug evidence. In many cases, police officers fail to observe one or more of these rules, and these mistakes can lead to drug charges being dismissed, reduced to a less serious offense, or to a defendant’s acquittal at trial.
Search and Seizure Without a Warrant or Probable Cause — The law is clear that police are not legally authorized to search a place or seize evidence unless they have a search warrant or independent probable cause. There are thousands of court decisions published in law books defining when certain facts amount to probable cause and when they don’t. That means police sometimes mistake when they have probable cause to search a person, a vehicle, or a home.
Experienced criminal defense lawyers are experts at spotting police errors and exposing those mistakes in court. Evidence found by the police during an unauthorized search is inadmissible in court. Getting that evidence thrown out is what skilled criminal defense attorneys do every day.
Mishandling Evidence (Chain of Custody) Errors — When drugs are seized by police, every move those drugs make must be documented in detail. The drugs must be securely sealed in a marked container or bag and any transfer or testing procedure must be accurately recorded. If the drug evidence is misplaced, poorly stored, mismeasured, or even misidentified, the prosecution’s case can fall apart.
At Stechschulte Nell, we thoroughly study and prepare every case for any discrepancy in the size, description, or condition of any evidence used in drug cases we defend, both in Florida state prosecutions and in U.S. Federal Court.
Sloppy or Inaccurate Report Writing — Police spend more time writing reports about the events that occurred leading up to an arrest and booking of a suspect than most people think. These reports are valuable tools for experienced criminal defense lawyers.
Police reports are official records of the police officer’s version of the facts, what they observed, and what actions they took. When more than one officer writes a report, or when an officer writes multiple reports, discrepancies become apparent. We at Stechschulte Nell analyze every police report, every scrap of evidence, and consider every discrepancy in the evidence to discover grounds to challenge the accuracy and reliability of police reports as well as statements by any other witnesses.
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Experienced Criminal Defense at Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law
There is no substitute for experience when you hire a criminal defense lawyer. Even with the best of intentions, an inexperienced or inattentive criminal defense lawyer can miss key issues or overlook an error by police. Missing any single issue in the defense of a criminal defendant can cost that client an unnecessary conviction and a years-long prison sentence.
Don’t compromise with your freedom. Contact the experienced, committed criminal defense team at Stechschulte Nell today at 813-280-1244.