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Defenses to drug charges in Pennsylvania

Criminal defense attorneys in Pennsylvania may approach drug charges in a number of ways. Sometimes they will advocate on behalf of their clients by questioning the accuracy or reliability of evidence such as witness statements or laboratory analysis, and in other cases they may question the actions of law enforcement officers or dispute the facts as presented by prosecutors.

Seized drugs are often the key piece of evidence in drug possession cases, but this evidence may be ruled inadmissible if the search that led to their discovery was unlawful. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from unlawful search and seizures, and law enforcement officers are in most cases required to obtain a warrant before searching a suspect's property. However, this protection does not apply if drugs are discovered in plain sight. If the seizure of the drugs withstands this scrutiny, an attorney may mount a defense based upon the claim that the defendant did not own the drugs and was not aware of their presence.

A drug case may be dismissed due to police misconduct other than an unlawful search. A defense attorney may maintain that the drugs in question were planted by a law enforcement officer, or might claim that the client was induced to commit criminal activity. While police may work undercover to apprehend drug dealers and buyers, they are not permitted to entrap suspects.

Those convicted of drug possession in Pennsylvania may face severe penalties, but proving these cases beyond reasonable doubt is often difficult for prosecutors. In addition to challenging the seizure of the evidence in a drug possession case, a criminal defense attorney may seek to have the charges against their client reduced. This can be done in some cases by pointing out mitigating factors, such as the client's previous good behavior, during plea negotiations with prosecutors.

Source: FindLaw, "Drug Possession Defenses", accessed on Feb. 19, 2015

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