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Minneapolis Drug Charges Lawyer: How to Fight Marijuana Criminal Charges

When facing marijuana criminal charges in Minneapolis, it’s crucial to understand the available legal options. This article explores effective defenses to marijuana charges, including the Fourth Amendment-, Fifth Amendment-, lack of possession-, and chain of custody defenses.

The Fourth Amendment defense centers on challenging the legality of the search and seizure that led to the discovery of marijuana. Courts must suppress evidence gained through unreasonable searches. Suppression of this evidence may destroy the state’s case.

The Fifth Amendment defense focuses on protecting individuals against involuntary self-incrimination. If a confession or incriminating statements were obtained in violation of Miranda rights, the court must suppress the evidence, possibly resulting in a case dismissal or acquittal..

A “lack of possession” defense challenges the prosecution’s ability to prove that the defendant knowingly had control over the marijuana. This defense can be especially effective when the marijuana was found in shared spaces, casting reasonable doubt about who actually possessed it.

The chain of custody defense questions the reliability and integrity of the marijuana evidence by examining the handling, storage, and documentation from seizure to presentation in court. Any gaps or discrepancies in the chain of custody create reasonable doubt as to the evidence’s authenticity.

Understanding these defenses is crucial, but navigating the legal complexities requires the expertise of an experienced drug charges lawyer. If you’re facing marijuana criminal charges in Minneapolis, contact Gerald Miller, P.A. to receive guidance and vigorous representation.

The Fourth Amendment Defense

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. In the context of a marijuana possession case, the defendant often invokes the Fourth Amendment when the marijuana was discovered as a result of a warrantless search.

However, a warrantless search is legal if the defendant consented, law enforcement can establish probable cause, or the search was incidental to arrest.

For instance, suppose a police officer pulled over a driver for failing to use a turn signal. During the stop, the officer decided to search the driver’s vehicle and found marijuana. If there was no probable cause to suspect the driver was in possession of marijuana, the search could be considered illegal under the Fourth Amendment.

In essence, the Fourth Amendment defense in a marijuana possession case is centered on the premise that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated during the search that led to the discovery of marijuana. If the judge agrees and suppresses the evidence obtained through the search, the state’s case may fail.

Fifth Amendment Defense

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides several protections for individuals, including the right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination. In a marijuana possession case, a Fifth Amendment defense may be employed in scenarios where a defendant’s statements were obtained in violation of constitutional rights.

Here’s an example for better understanding: Imagine the police arrest a suspect for marijuana possession but neglect to provide a Miranda warning. Because the subject is in custody, the police must Mirandize him for any statements or answers to questions to be admissible in court. Later, during questioning, the suspect confesses to possessing marijuana.

In this scenario, the defense attorney could argue that the confession was obtained in violation of the defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights and request the court suppress the confession, possibly destroying the case.

Lack of Possession Defense

A marijuana possession prosecution hinges on the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has knowledge of the drug and control of it.  A “lack of possession” defense challenges this key element.

A defendant could argue that he never had actual possession (on his person) or constructive possession (access to and control over the place where it was found). This defense can be particularly effective in cases where the marijuana was found in a location accessible to multiple people, like a shared living space, a shared vehicle, or a public place.

Consider this hypothetical scenario: Joe and Bob share an apartment, and both have equal access to common areas. One day, police officers execute a search warrant on the apartment and find marijuana inside a kitchen drawer. Both Joe and Bob are charged with marijuana possession.

In this situation, both Joe and Bob could potentially argue a “lack of possession” defense. They could assert that, because the marijuana was found in a shared space, the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt who the marijuana belonged to. Therefore, they cannot establish that either Joe or Bob had known control over marijuana, a critical element of possession.

Their attorneys could then file a motion to dismiss the Marijuana Charges, arguing that there’s insufficient evidence to show that either Joe or Bob possessed the marijuana. If the judge agrees that the prosecution cannot prove possession beyond a reasonable doubt, he or she will dismiss the case.

Nevertheless, it’s important to note that a successful “lack of possession” defense requires more than just asserting that someone else could have possessed the marijuana. A strong defense includes supporting evidence that raises reasonable doubt about the defendant’s possession.

For instance, the defense may present evidence that another party had been in the shared space recently, showing that the defendant lacked exclusive access to the area where the marijuana was found. This evidence may be sufficient to establish reasonable doubt.

Chain of Custody Defense

A “chain of custody” defense in a marijuana possession case focuses on deviations from the procedures required in the handling, storing, and documenting of evidence from the time it was seized until it was presented in court. This defense is based on the legal principle that any evidence used in court must be reliable, and its integrity must be preserved to ensure a fair trial.

The chain of custody is essentially a record of all individuals who have had possession of the evidence and when and where any transfers occurred. Any gaps or discrepancies in this record call into question the integrity and reliability of the evidence.

If there is a gap in the chain of custody, a defense attorney can argue that the evidence may have been tampered with, contaminated, or even replaced, casting reasonable doubt on the validity of the evidence. If a judge agrees that the chain of custody has been compromised, the marijuana evidence is inadmissible.

For example, suppose the police seized a large amount of marijuana from a suspect’s vehicle during a lawful search. The marijuana was bagged, labeled, and transported to the police evidence room.

Later, when preparing for the trial, the defense attorney discovers a discrepancy in the chain of custody log. The log indicates that the marijuana was signed out of the evidence room for lab testing but doesn’t show a record of it being signed back in. It is not until a week later that the marijuana reappears in the log.

The defense attorney could argue that the gap in the chain of custody raises questions about what happened to the marijuana during that unaccounted week. Was it tampered with? Could it have been contaminated or switched? The uncertainty about the evidence’s integrity could convince the judge to rule the marijuana evidence inadmissible, potentially leading to a dismissal or acquittal.

Pre-Trial Motions to Dismiss Often Defeat Marijuana Charges

A pre-trial motion to dismiss is a formal request made by the defense to the court, asking the judge to dismiss the case before it reaches trial. This legal maneuver often comes after other successful pre-trial motions have weakened or invalidated the prosecution’s evidence.

The motion to dismiss argues that even if all allegations made by the prosecution are accepted as true, there is insufficient evidence to justify a trial. In marijuana possession cases, a pre-trial motion to dismiss could be filed if key evidence, such as the marijuana itself, was excluded from the trial due to violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights.

For instance, let’s say a defense attorney successfully argues a motion to exclude evidence on the grounds of an unlawful search and seizure, leading to marijuana being excluded from evidence. Without the marijuana, the prosecution might have no case.

Consequently, the defense attorney could then file a pre-trial motion to dismiss, arguing that the case cannot proceed without the key evidence. If the judge agrees, he dismisses the case..

Trial and Appeal

The trial and appeal process in a Minnesota criminal case involves several stages.

Trial Phase

Minnesota criminal trials may be decided by a jury or the judge. Often, the defense has a better chance in a bench trial, as some judges have high standards for reasonable doubt. On the other hand, a jury may be more sympathetic to the defendant.

The trial phase includes the following:

  • Jury Selection
  • Opening Statements
  • Presentation of Evidence
  • Closing Arguments
  • Jury Deliberation and Verdict
  • Sentencing

Appeal Process

If the defendant loses at trial, he has the right to appeal the conviction or sentence. However, the prosecution has no right of appeal, as that would violate double jeopardy.

The appellate process is based on legal arguments rather than re-examining the facts of the case. The appellant must identify errors made during the trial that affected the outcome or violated the defendant’s constitutional rights. They present their arguments in written briefs, and the prosecution responds with counterarguments.

The higher court reviews the briefs, conducts legal research, and may hear oral arguments. The court then issues a written decision affirming, reversing, or modifying the lower court’s decision. If it overturns the conviction, the appellate court returns the case to the trial court for another trial or dismiss the case.

It’s important to note that the appeal process has specific deadlines and requirements. Seeking the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney during the appeal process is highly recommended to ensure proper procedures are followed and to present the most persuasive arguments.

In the face of Marijuana charges in Minneapolis, it’s essential to have a strong defense strategy to protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome. Understanding the various defenses available, such as the Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, lack of possession, and chain of custody, can make a significant difference in your case.

Talk to an Attorney About Marijuana Charges in Minneapolis

To navigate the complexities of the legal system and win your case, it is vital to contact an experienced drug charges lawyer. If you’re in need of effective legal representation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Gerald Miller, P.A. for skilled and dedicated advocacy.

Related Content: First-Degree Sale of a Controlled Substance Laws


About the author

Kyle Dreger

Kyle Dreger is a skilled DUI/DWI and Criminal Defense lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. Kyle has received his law degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is also a professionally trained basketball player.

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