Not All Those Convicted of a Crime are Guilty

Feb 24, 2017 by

Every year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) makes more than 30,000 arrests due to drug-related crimes. Drug-related activities, including simple possession, possession with intent, sale of a controlled substance, drug manufacturing, drug trafficking, and drug conspiracy, are serious federal and state crimes. Punishment for those convicted can include mandatory sentence, steep fines, and possibly many hours of community service, among others. A mandatory sentence refers to the penalties a court must hand down to a person convicted of certain offense. Felony offenses, under state law, for example, are punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one year imprisonment. Class A felonies, which are the most serious, carry a minimum of 15 years jail time. Mandatory minimum sentences, however, may be increased due to certain factors, such as prior convictions or aggravating factors.

Two specific arrests frequently made by state or federal arresting officers are simple possession of illegal drugs and possession with intent. Simple possession alleges that an individual had a controlled substance for his or her own personal use (illegal or controlled substance includes cocaine, heroin, marijuana and ecstasy). Heroin, marijuana and ecstasy are Schedule I drugs or drugs with no currently accepted medical use and which have a high potential for abuse; cocaine, on the other hand, is a Schedule II drug or a type of illegal drug that also has a high potential for abuse; use of drugs under this category can potentially lead to severe psychological or physical dependence too.

More serious than simple possession is possession with intent. This offense alleges that a person who possesses illegal drugs has intent to sell, distribute, deliver, or even manufacture a controlled substance since the amount of drugs in his/her possession is obviously too much for any one person to use . Due to this, a simple possession charge can, therefore, be elevated to possession with intent. Aside from the among of drugs, the presence of some items, like sand/mall plastic bags, containers, or scales are also more likely indicative of a possessor’s intent to sell. While simple possession may only be a misdemeanor, possession with intent is always considered by state and federal authorities as a felony.

Though it is only right that those involved in drug crimes and other drug-related activities be caught and punished, it cannot be denied that a lot of innocent people suffer many years in jail due to wrong conviction, which can be due to:

  • Systemic bias, or institutional bias, which refers to an inherent tendency to support particular outcomes (such as excluding black jurors from trials involving, especially, African Americans);
  • “Tunnel vision” or confirmation bias,” which involves forming an initial impression about one person’s guilt, and then tunneling or focusing on proving that person’s guilt while overlooking exculpatory information and other suspects; and,
  • Plea bargaining, wherein an accused would rather confess to a crime that he/she did not commit just to be given a minimum sentence for the offense he/she is being charged with. While a plea bargain would save a person from a lengthy time in jail, it also forgoes the necessity of a trial wherein he/she can prove his/her innocence.

Even if one is caught with marijuana or any other type of drug, it will definitely be beneficial if he/she would have a highly-competent criminal defense lawyer who may be able to save him/her from conviction or who may be able to help lower the sentence a judge will hand down in case of a conviction.

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