St. Louis Drug Lawyer
The most common crime charged in association with drugs is drug possession. Possession of drugs gets charged in a variety of fact patterns. Many times possession charges stem from an incident where the police were already involved, such as a traffic stop, that then leads to a search of property or the person, and drugs are discovered as a result. Due to the nature of these interactions, drug possession cases are perfect for Fourth Amendment challenges to the search and the seizure of the drugs. This area of law, more than many others, allows for skilled drug defense lawyers to get cases thrown out due to improper police procedures and conduct.
Is Drug Possession a Felony in Missouri? – All drug possession crimes in Missouri are felonies with the exception of possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana. This is true even for first time offenders, which is one reason it is vitally important to have these drug possession charges handled properly by an experienced criminal defense attorney. Also, unlike many other states, expungements for drug crimes are not generally available in Missouri, which means the best time to fight drug crime is when the case first goes to court.
Drug Possession Lawyer Jason Korner – Jason Korner is a St. Louis drug possession defense lawyer with an excellent reputation of challenging the police conduct that resulted in the drug possession charges. When Mr. Korner is successful in these challenges, then prosecutors are not allowed to use the drugs as evidence in the case, and because of the lack of allowable evidence those cases are often dismissed.
General Defenses to Drug Crimes
Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure are the fundamental defense to drugs crimes in the St. Louis area. Faulty police procedure or conduct can often lead to the suppression of drug evidence and result in the dismissal of criminal charges.
Illegal Search After a Traffic Stop – Many drug charges begin with a traffic stop, often times for something simple such as speeding or rolling through a stop sign. During the traffic stop a police officer can ask if there is anything illegal in the vehicle, or even ask for the driver’s consent to search the vehicle. If the driver gives consent to search the vehicle then the officer is legally allowed to conduct the search, even if there was no reason for the officer to have asked for permission to search the vehicle in the first place. When a police officer is not granted consent by the driver to search the vehicle, he can still legally conduct a search, but now the officer will have to be able to justify the search with probable cause. These are the most general and basic of the legal rules that apply to automobile searches. More than almost any other area of law, there are many specific instances and exceptions built into this area of law and all vehicle searches that result in drug charges should be examined by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Illegal Search of a House – Similar to vehicle searches, there are many specifics that apply to the search of a person’s home. Even with consent police officers may be allowed to go into some rooms but not others. Even with a search warrant signed by a judge there still may be certain places the police cannot go, and certain things they may not be authorized to seize. For example, if the police have a search warrant that allows them to look for and seize rifles, then they would not be allowed to look in drawers or containers where a rifle would not fit. If drugs were found in such a container during this hypothetical warrant search for rifles, then the drugs would be able to be suppressed and could not be used as evidence in court.
Possession of Marijuana, Edibles, and THC Wax
Marijuana is the only drug in Missouri where possession can be charged as a misdemeanor, or even as where the case may be handled by a municipal court. Possession of any other drug is a felony and cannot be handled in a municipal court. Possession of marijuana is only is misdemeanor if the amount possessed is less than 35 grams. If the amount possessed is more than 35 grams, then even possession of marijuana is a felony in Missouri. Fortunately, the majority of marijuana cases include only small amounts of marijuana and are dealt with in the municipal courts, or as a misdemeanor in state court. These laws allow for far better dispositions for people charged with possession of marijuana than people charged with the possession of other drugs.
Marijuana is Still Illegal in Missouri – Although marijuana has been legalized completely in some states, and in part by medical marijuana laws in many states, the possession of marijuana is still illegal in Missouri. That being said, marijuana is handled differently in the courts than other drugs. Prosecutors simply do not seem as zealous about the prosecution of marijuana cases compared to other drugs, which helps people who have been charged with marijuana related crimes.
Edibles & THC Wax – Although marijuana under 35 grams is a misdemeanor in Missouri, that only applies to leaf marijuana. Any amount of THC in other forms, most notably edibles and waxes are a felony to possess. This means that one THC gummy bear brought back from Colorado where it was legally purchased is a felony when it is possessed in Missouri. The same applies to THC wax that has become popular to smoke in a vaporizer; any amount possessed in Missouri is a felony. Some people may think that prosecutors’ offices would not care about THC, but these cases are regularly charged as felonies. Although there is a subtle shift by prosecutors’ offices towards not charging as many low-level leaf marijuana cases, edibles and waxes are charged as a felony at nearly every opportunity.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
Possession with intent to distribute is charged when police believe they have evidence of a person selling or trading drugs. This charge can take many different forms, but in all forms this is a serious charge that carries a range of punishment from five to fifteen years in prison. Prosecutors must prove drug possession and also additional facts that would prove a person intended to distribute the drugs he possessed. Prosecutors will often use statements made by the person to show he had the intention to distribute or sell the drug he possessed. Other evidence of distribution could be the packaging of the drugs, i.e. if the drugs were divided into small bags that are in quantities common for sale. The police will try to search cell phones in search of text messages that discuss the sale or trade of drugs. Based on a recent Supreme Court decision, police now need a person’s consent to search a cell phone.
Do Not Consent to Any Searches by Police – It is important that any person dealing with the police during all investigations, but especially drug investigations, do not make any statements. Also, do not consent to the search of anything, not a car, not a purse or backpack, and definitely not a search of a cell phone. Limiting the amount of evidence is an important first step in all drug cases. In a possession with intent to distribute case, limiting the evidence available to the prosecutor may help to make the case only possession, and not the more serious crime of distribution.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia is often charged along with possession of a drug. The most common possession of drug paraphernalia charge comes when a police officer finds a pipe that has been used to smoke marijuana. Whether a bong, a one-hitter, or a battie, if it has been used to smoke marijuana then it is considered drug paraphernalia. Police usually find the paraphernalia conducting a search of a car or a person following a traffic stop where the officer smells the odor of burnt marijuana. Possession of drug paraphernalia can be charged in a municipal court or a state court, and it can even be a felony.
What if I have only been given a citation for municipal possession of drug paraphernalia? – This is the best-case scenario when it comes to being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. With the help of a good lawyer, many municipal court charges can be dealt with in a quick and efficient manner. There is even a possibility the charge could be amended to non-drug related crime that will not appear on a criminal history check, and that the client would not have to appear in court. The goal here is to try to keep the charge off of my client’s record, while also minimizing the inconvenience and stress of appearing in court.
When is Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Felony? – Possession of drug paraphernalia is considered a felony when the paraphernalia is used in conjunction with the manufacturing of amphetamines, methamphetamine, or any analogue of those drugs. This felony is generally charged when prosecutors suspect someone of manufacturing methamphetamine, but there is not sufficient evidence to prove all of the elements needed for manufacturing.
Federal Drug Crimes
Federal drug charges often come with severe mandatory sentences. There are often very few, if any, options to avoid these mandatory sentences. A person’s options are limited when facing a federal drug sentence, and the quick decisions that must be made will have will have a lasting and dramatic effect on his or her life. It is important to get the best legal advice possible from an attorney with years of experience defending drug crimes in federal court. In state court many people get probation and some go to prison, but in federal court many people go to prison and the exception are the few who are able to get probation with the help of a good federal defense attorney.
There are a number of factors that can significantly increase any possible sentence in a federal drug case:
- If a firearm was possessed in the furtherance of drug activity
- If the person has any previous felony convictions
- If drugs were dealt to a person under 21 years old
- If drugs were manufactured or dealt near a school
- If a person under 18 was used to assist in drug dealing
- If an injury or death resulted from the drug usage
However, the number one factor taken into account in a federal drug crime is the type and quantity of drugs involved. The weights for each particularly kind of drug are all included in a table in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, and that table shows recommended offense levels for different quantities of each type of drug. When looking at possible federal drug sentences, this drug quantity table in the sentencing guidelines is the place to start. Offense levels are only a starting point for federal drug crimes because even with the aggravating factors listed above there are also a list of factors that can increase or decrease a potential federal drug sentence, including:
- Was there a plea, or did the case go to trial?
- Did the person have a leadership role, or a minimal role in the overall scheme?
- Did the person give substantial assistance to the Government?
- Does the person qualify for the Safety Valve?
- What is the person’s prior criminal history, if any?
Although there are nearly countless factors that can affect a federal drug sentence, the above factors are the factors that are taken into consideration in most federal drug cases.
Possession of Heroin
The rise of heroin in the St. Louis area over the past several years has been well documented. A combination of worldwide events, including the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the crackdown methamphetamine locally has lead to the steady flow of cheap and available heroin into the St. Louis area. Many people who get arrested for possession of heroin began by either snorting it as a powder, or by getting hooked opiate-based prescription pain medication. At this point, heroin is cheaper and easier to obtain locally than black market prescription pills.
How is Representation in a Heroin Case Different from Other Drugs? – My firm has represented many clients over the past years that have battled heroin addiction. Although many of them were charged with possession or other drug related crimes, the heroin addiction has also lead to many clients getting charged with stealing, forgery, and even bank robbery. Regardless of the actual crime charged, all of these charges stemmed from an addiction to heroin. It is very important for each of my clients who battles addiction to understand that sobriety has to be their primary concern. If the heroin use continues then it will lead to more and more legal troubles. I always make sobriety the primary concern of my client, and I ask them to trust me to handle the legal issues for them while they work on their treatment and sobriety. This theory of legal defense does not stem from a moral place, but instead it is the only practical way to try to solve my clients’ legal problems, and to try to help them avoid ongoing legal issues.
Is There a Chance for Success? – Although things often seem very bleak for people who come to my office with drug charges related to heroin, I am happy to say that many of those people have dealt with their addiction and we have been able to put their legal troubles behind them. Prosecutors understand the challenges of heroin addiction, so when I am able to relay stories of my client’s treatment and sobriety to the prosecutors, it helps plea negotiations and often results in a very favorable outcome for my client.
St. Louis Drug Court & Alternative Disposition Programs
Many courts in the St. Louis area have Drug Court programs. These programs are for people who face criminal charges stemming from drug problems. Although drug possession is the most common charge in Drug Court, many other charges could be appropriate for the program under the right circumstances. The most important factor when determining whether someone is a candidate for Drug Court is to determine whether the person’s current charges involve any allegations of violence or if the person has a violent criminal history. Violence will almost always disqualify a person from Drug Court eligibility.
What Are the Benefits and Obligations of Drug Court? – Drug Courts in the counties in the St. Louis area operate differently, and each has its own benefits and obligations. The greatest benefit in some of the Drug Courts, including St. Louis County, is that upon successful completion of the program the criminal charge is dismissed. Drug Court programs generally take between 12 and 15 months to complete, with different phases in the program during that time. Obligations usually involve, but are not limited to, appearing in court one time each week, drug tests, and participation in outside counseling and support groups.
Is My Case Right for Drug Court? – There are many attorneys who believe if they can get a client into Drug Court then the client should enter the program. The philosophy of our law firm is different. Our firm believes that no two cases, and no two clients are the same, and because of those differences each person needs his or her case looked at individually. The Drug Court program could be the perfect outcome for many clients and cases, but it is not right for everyone. For people who do not want to conform to the rigid structure and mandatory requirements of the Drug Court program, other options should be looked into for their cases. Our office will not pigeonhole any client, and he certainly does not believe the same path fits all clients. We will evaluate each case and discuss various options with each of his clients to determine the best possible outcome.
St. Louis Drug Lawyer Jason Korner
My name is Jason Korner and I am dedicated to defending people who have been accused of a crime. Many times these criminal charges are drug related crimes in state or federal courts. Since the time I started my law practice in 2009, my firm has handled only cases involving the defense of criminal charges. If someone comes to me for a divorce or looking to file a civil law suit, I politely refer them to a different law firm because that is not the kind of law I practice. I practice high-level criminal defense where I seek to minimize the legal consequences my clients face after being arrested or charged with a crime.
I have been fortunate to successfully defend many clients against drug charges. Often when dealing with drug related citations in municipal courts I have been able to get the charges amended to a charge that does not involve drugs and will not appear on my client’s criminal record. In more complex cases, I am willing to file motions to suppress evidence, or even take a drug case all the way to a jury trial to fight for my clients’ rights and freedom. There are not many attorneys who will spend the time on drug case needed to properly fight the case, but that is what I am able to do because I specialize in criminal defense.
A large portion of my criminal practice involves the defense of drug crimes. These crimes can be as small as a municipal charge for possession of drug paraphernalia, or as complex as a federal interstate drug distribution conspiracy. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime contact me today at (314) 409-2659 or click here to fill out the information form and my office will contact you to answer your questions and discuss your case.