How to Dismiss Unjust Drug Trafficking Charges
Police, prosecutors, and judges all take drug crimes very seriously. In fact, even a first-time drug trafficking offense in New Mexico is classified as a second-degree felony. While serious, there are many potential defenses to drug charges. Those facing a New Mexico drug trafficking charge should be sure to work with an experienced attorney who knows how to beat these cases.
Possible Defenses to Drug Trafficking Charges
When thinking about how to beat a New Mexico drug trafficking charge, it is important first to determine what won’t work. In New Mexico, defendants who were caught with a significant amount of drugs and are currently facing serious drug charges may not be able to effectively argue that they did not have the intent to sell the drugs in question. This is because New Mexico law allows judges and juries to presume that anyone in possession of a certain quantity of drugs possessed them with the intent to distribute.
That said, there are still several defenses to New Mexico trafficking charges:
Exclusion of Evidence
Perhaps the most common defense in any New Mexico drug case is through the exclusion of evidence. Under the United States and New Mexico constitutions, all citizens have the right to be free from “unreasonable” searches and seizures. Generally, this means that law enforcement officers must obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before conducting a search of a person or their belongings.
However, over the years, courts have come up with a variety of exceptions to the warrant requirement. Thus, in many situations, law enforcement can conduct a search without a warrant. However, the officers conducting the search still must have probable cause. The most common example of probable cause is when an officer witnesses the crime take place, say, in an undercover pre-arranged buy. However, law enforcement may claim that they had probable cause to search someone because they matched a description or acted suspiciously.
There are relaxed rules allowing for the search of vehicles. However, law enforcement must still provide a valid reason for the search. For example, there are several reasons why a law enforcement officer may attempt to do a search on a car.
- Search incident to an arrest – If an officer claims that a search followed an arrest, the officer must be able to prove that the arrest was both lawful and contemporaneous with the search. These searches are limited in scope to the area within the occupants’ control.
- An inventory search of an impounded vehicle – Police may claim that the search was part of a valid inventory search of a vehicle that was, or was about to be, impounded. In this case, officers must show that the vehicle was in the officer’s control, the search was conducted according to the established procedure, and the search was reasonable. The scope of these searches is also limited, and officers cannot open locked containers.
- Probable cause plus exigent circumstances – A warrantless search of a vehicle requires probable cause to believe the evidence of a crime will be found, in addition to exigent circumstances that justify immediate action. Exigent circumstances include the possibility of flight, officer safety, or the possible destruction of evidence.
If a defendant can show that law enforcement officers violated their constitutional rights in carrying out a search, any evidence obtained from that search cannot be admitted at trial. Thus, if a motion to suppress is granted, the prosecution may have no choice but to dismiss the case.
If law enforcement induces someone to commit a crime that they would not have committed otherwise, the defense of entrapment may apply. If this defense applies, charges will be dropped, or the defendant will be acquitted at trial. The entrapment defense was designed to prevent the police from inducing someone to commit a crime so that they can arrest that person. The entrapment defense is relatively rare in New Mexico drug trafficking cases, although it does come up occasionally.
Nolle prosequi, or “nol pros” for short, is a Latin term describing the prosecution’s abandonment or withdrawal of a case. Of course, prosecutors do not withdraw cases without either having a good reason or being forced to do so. A few of the reasons a prosecutor may nol pros a case includes:
- A critical officer is unavailable, often because they have been involved in substantiated acts of misconduct;
- Through investigation, the prosecution realizes the defendant was not involved in the drug-trafficking ring; or
- The prosecution agrees to withdraw a case based on a defendant’s agreement to help prosecute other, more major participants.
Defendants facing drug trafficking charges should not count on the prosecution nol prossing their case. However, a knowledgeable criminal attorney may be able to push a nol pros for any of the above reasons.
Similar to a motion to suppress physical evidence, a defendant who makes a statement to law enforcement may be able to suppress the statement if it was taken in violation of their constitutional rights. Typically, law enforcement must read a suspect their Miranda warnings before taking a formal statement. However, the Miranda-warning requirement only attaches if the police are engaging in custodial interrogation. Thus, if a suspect blurts out a statement, it is unlikely that the statement will be suppressed because it was not made as a result of undue police pressure.
While New Mexico drug trafficking crimes are extremely serious, there are ways to beat them. Those facing these allegations should reach out to a dedicated defense attorney for immediate assistance.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Drug Trafficking Law Firm Today
If you are facing a New Mexico drug trafficking case, contact the dedicated defense attorneys at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. Police, prosecutors, and judges all take drug crimes very seriously, and so should you. Even first-time offenses could land you in jail and have an irreversible effect on your life. Of course, there are potential defenses to drug charges that may result in the dismissal of your case. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal attorney, you can reach us by phone or through our online form.