5 Tips on How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer
(Drug Possession Example)
1. Make sure the Lawyer you hire is the Lawyer you get.
Many law firms employ a high profile attorney to attract the maximum number of paying clients. They use a “name you know” to get you in the door. You will probably even meet with this person. However, you will also probably never see that person again.
While you have his or her attention, ask if there are associates in the firm and how they are utilized on cases like yours. You will be signing a contract so, be sure you read it. Firms that will shuffle your drug possession case off to a junior associate will put in their contracts that you are giving them the right to do that very thing. They will not point that out to you before you sign and, they may not acknowledge it if you ask directly. Read the fine print.
Controlled Substance and drug possession cases are most often felonies. Felonies have serious punishment and employment consequences. These cases are too serious and the stakes for you are too high to entrust your case to an inexperienced associate, particularly an associate that you did not choose. Further, does a firm that spreads their volume of drug possession cases across multiple associates really have time to defend you as an individual? If they don’t have time to learn your story, how can they ever effectively tell your story?
2. Hire an Attorney that knows the local Justice System.
There are many excellent attorneys in Dallas and Fort Worth. There are very competent attorneys in McKinney and Plano. However, handling a drug possession case in Denton County is different from handling a drug possession case in any of those jurisdictions. You want a truly local attorney, not an attorney that “goes to Denton all the time.”
I started my career in 1999 at the Denton County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. As a prosecutor I handled many drug and controlled substance possession cases. The prosecutors I worked with back then are the top people in the District Attorney’s office today. My colleagues in the Denton County Defense Bar have become Judges in the various Courts of Denton County. I know what Judges find persuasive, I know what prosecutors find persuasive and I know what the average Denton County Juror finds persuasive when it comes to drug possession cases in Denton County. I have the local knowledge and relationships to get good things done.
3. Hire an Attorney that has Experience with Drug Possession cases.
I have been handling drug and controlled substance cases for 20 years. I have seen it all. I have had a client arrested with a crack rock in his pocket and found not guilty at jury trial. That was a matter of knowing how Denton County Jurors view possession of personal use amounts of drugs and what evidence they find persuasive.
I have been told some hard to believe tales by clients and seen them proved true. Years ago I had a client tell me that a police detective found him at an extended stay hotel and wanted to question him. When my client wouldn’t cooperate the detective threw down a baggie containing a white powdery substance and took my client to jail for possession of a controlled substance. The detective then convinced a judge to set my client’s bond unusually high.
I was very skeptical of my client’s story. However, he was adamant and it was my job to help him. I filed for an Examining Trial. It is not a true trial but, it does require the authorities to produce evidence amounting to probable cause in court. If the authorities cannot produce probable cause the defendant is released from jail without having to post bond. When the hearing date rolled around neither a prosecutor nor a police officer appeared in court. My client was released from jail without having to post bond. He was never charged in court with drug possession.
4. Hire an Attorney who Knows how to Defend a Drug Possession on the Law.
Current law can be a powerful tool in defending drug possession cases. Until the last several years law enforcement officers were in the habit of seizing an arrested person’s cellphone and going through it. If they found texts, emails or communication on Apps that outlined the buying and/or selling of drugs they would use that information in the cases against the defendants. Often that information changed a simple drug possession case into a more serious delivery of drugs case. However, I was on top of the case law when the United States Supreme Court ruled that police must have a warrant to go through phones. Several of my clients benefitted from my awareness of the law. They received reduced charges and some dismissals.
More recently appellate courts have ruled against some police practices that have allowed them to make traffic stops. In one case an appellate court has ruled that the insurance database used by police is not accurate enough, by itself, to justify stopping a car when the database indicates that car might not have insurance. In another recent case an appellate court has ruled that a driver crossing over the fog line and onto the shoulder of a road is not, by itself, a valid legal reason to stop a vehicle. If the stop isn’t legal the resulting searches and arrests are not legal either. These cases must be dropped and your attorney must know that.
5. Hire an Attorney that can Defend your Drug Possession case on the Facts.
To be found guilty of the illegal possession of controlled substances or drugs you must have known that you were in possession of them. Example, you drive a large SUV with three rows of seats in the passenger compartment. Because you have this large vehicle, you volunteer to drive a carpool of high school kids to Friday soccer practice every week. If one of the teenagers leaves Xanax pills in the rear seat of your SUV and a police officer sees them during a traffic stop, you are subject to a charge of illegal drug possession. As the driver, you cannot see or smell the pills. Therein lies your defense. You did not know they were there, therefore you are not guilty.
It is also vital that the attorney you hire knows what resources are available to help your defense. In the example above, a clean drug test can help get your possession case dismissed. Though you are charged with possession of drugs and not the illegal use of drugs, the purpose of possessing small amounts of drugs is to use them. A clean UA shows that you do not use drugs and are, therefore, unlikely to be knowingly in possession of them. A polygraph can be useful here as well. Though polygraphs are not admissible in criminal court, they can persuade a prosecutor to dismiss a case when the test shows that you didn’t know there were drugs in the car.
The last resource I will mention here are private drug labs. A knowledgeable defense attorney will know when and how to use private drug labs to re-test the alleged drugs. Briefly, private testing can be used to reduce the net wait of a controlled substance and therefore serve as the basis for a reduced charge. In some cases, private testing can cast doubt on whether the substance in question is truly an illegal drug. You need an attorney that can utilize all the resources available to make your situation better.
To get answers to all of your questions, contact the law office of Daniel Peugh to schedule a free confidential consultation.