Possession of controlled substances is a criminal offense that can carry serious charges. The consequences of being convicted of this crime can be long-lasting and could have detrimental effects on a person’s life. If you have been accused of drug possession, contacting a Chattanooga lawyer early in your case could allow you to build a strong defense against the prosecution’s evidence.
For the prosecution to have a credible drug case, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug in the defendant’s possession is illegal under Tennessee law. Beyond proving the illegality of the drug in question, the prosecution must also demonstrate that the defendant had actual or constructive possession.
Evidence in local drug possession cases typically starts with the substance itself. Drugs in sufficient quantities that are the subject of criminal cases must be tested in a crime lab, and the evidence can include those results and the testing procedure used to produce them. The prosecution must maintain the chain of custody from the time the drugs are first seized. At trial, the prosecution is required to have a crime lab technician testify regarding the drug’s classification and the underlying science and testing procedures that make it illegal beyond a reasonable doubt.
Proof of actual possession could come from eyewitness testimony from an investigating Chattanooga police officer, criminal informant, or someone else who saw drugs in the custody or control of the defendant. Police may also use video and photographic evidence of where the drugs are found, wiretaps, and audio recorders of the defendant discussing the drug.
Constructive possession is a looser way to prove the defendant had a controlled substance. The prosecution can attempt to prove this kind of possession if they have circumstantial evidence about the defendant’s control over the home or the area where the drugs are found, even if it was not the defendant’s property.
Circumstantial evidence of this nature could include rental agreements for the residence where the drugs were found or photographs or video that place the defendant there. Mail and other information such as vehicle registry may attribute the substances in the house to being within the defendant’s control. Constructive possession gives the prosecution wide latitude but often leaves a pathway for an attorney to cast reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds.
Prior to trial, the defendant’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure can be a hotly contested issue, as the police may overstep during their investigations. This right means that there are limits to what law enforcement can do when seizing property in an individual’s possession. Officers need to obtain a warrant in many cases, but they often proceed to seize illegal substances simply on probable cause.
At trial, the evidence may be hotly contested, as drug cases often revolve around constructive possession. Actual possession cases, where the defendant may have had drugs in their pocket, backpack, or immediately on their person, are less likely see trial and are often resolved after the motions hearing on the Fourth Amendment rights.
In Chattanooga drug possession cases, the defense attorney and prosecution may fight to fit the evidence to their narratives. Circumstantial evidence could often be used to the advantage of either side, so it may be crucial for the defendant to have a trial lawyer who knows how to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case. If you are facing an illegal substance charge, enlisting the help of a skilled lawyer could strengthen your case. Call today to schedule a consultation.