Missouri has some of the toughest drug laws in the nation. Illegal possession of any controlled substance other than less than 35 grams of marijuana is a class D felony with a sentence of up to 7 years in prison. The penalties for offenses like manufacturing, delivery or trafficking are more severe. In other words, if you have been charged with a drug crime in Missouri you need to hire a lawyer. Your freedom is on the line and you really don't need a felony on your record that can affect your employment, schooling or housing. Chances are good that, since you are on a website for a criminal defense lawyer, you are already aware of the severe penalties and might have even decided to hire a lawyer. You are probably trying to decide which lawyer to hire and looking for answers to some commonly asked questions.
Can You Get Your Drug Charges Dismissed?
Maybe. It is almost certain that you will not be able to get it done yourself, but if you hire a good defense attorney with experience in defending drug cases you have a chance. Drug charges are usually more amenable to dismissal than other criminal cases. In most instances, the state must conduct a legal search and prove that you were knowingly in possession of a substance proven to be illegal. Sometimes they make mistakes along the way, and an experienced defense attorney knows how to find them. Additionally, there are diversion programs available that can keep a felony charge off your record.
Dismissal for Illegal Search
To get a conviction on a drug case, the state must have conducted a valid, legal search. The right of people to not be subjected to unreasonable searches is enshrined in the 4th Amendment, and the case law on this subject is incredibly complex and nuanced. A good defense attorney will thoroughly examine all police reports and ask their client for an in-depth account of events looking for the small details that will allow them to file a motion to exclude from evidence drugs found during an unreasonable search.
Dismissal for Lack of Possession
The issue of possession seems pretty straightforward; a person either has drugs or they don't. In reality, it is much more complicated than that. To prove possession the state must establish that a person intentionally and consciously had either direct physical control or indirect “constructive” possession of a substance they knew to be of a certain nature. There is a lot to unpack there, and more than a little vagueness, and therefore a lot of room for a good criminal defense attorney to operate.
Dismissal for No Proof of Drugs
The state is required to prove that the substance in question in a drug case is an illegal controlled substance. This is usually done with chemical analysis and, if necessary, expert testimony. Most of the time the state does everything correctly, but a diligent criminal defense attorney will double check all of the results just to make sure. It doesn't pay off often, but when it does it is worth the effort.
Dismissal Through Drug Court
Being sentenced to drug court is not a dismissal where you walk away with no consequences, but it can be a way to keep a conviction off of your record. To complete the drug court program you must maintain full-time employment or schooling, perform community service, pass drug tests, attend treatment and make court appearances, among other tasks. It can be challenging, but if you are successful you can have your charges dismissed and your record sealed. A good criminal defense attorney will know if you are eligible and how to get you into the program.
What if You Can't Get Your Charges Dismissed?
If your lawyer can't get your charges dismissed there are still some options available other than pleading guilty and accepting whatever punishment the court decides to give you. Some of the options allow you to get help for addiction and you might even be able to keep the charge off your record.
Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS)
A suspended imposition of sentence occurs when, after a guilty plea, a judge orders a period of probation with conditions rather than pronouncing a sentence. The conditions vary but can include drug testing, check-ins with the court or a probation officer, community service, substance abuse treatment, etc.. Once you successfully complete the probation, the charge is removed from your public record and no further punishment occurs. If you fail to complete the probation the judge can impose a punishment within the parameters of the original charge.
Suspended Execution of Sentence (SES)
A suspended execution of sentence differs from an SIS in that with an SES the judge actually enters a sentence with a specified punishment but orders probation with conditions in lieu of the start of that punishment. Additionally, once you complete the probation you will have a conviction on your record. If you fail to complete the probation the judge will order the original sentence be imposed. The conditions of probation for an SES can be similar to those of an SIS and can include institutional treatment.
The Revised Statutes of Missouri provide for two different types of programs to be conducted by the department of corrections. The first type is the 120 day program which can include Institutional Treatment or Shock Incarceration. Both provide substance abuse treatment and life skills counseling. The second type is the long-term substance use treatment program. This is a more intensive course for chronic offenders that lasts from 12 to 24 months. Both types of programs are held in a prison setting and participants live in general population for the duration.
When a case is not amenable to dismissal and a client either doesn't want or is not eligible for an SIS, drug court or an SES, a defense attorney must negotiate with the prosecutor for a sentence acceptable to all parties. This usually happens when the charges are very serious or the client has multiple priors. Obviously, it is vitally important to have a skilled attorney conduct these negotiations on your behalf.
Taking a case to trial should be considered a last resort. Ideally, a good criminal defense attorney will control the progress of a case well enough to get a dismissal or a negotiated outcome acceptable to their client, but circumstances don't always allow this. When they don't you need a lawyer who has trial experience on your side.
Why Hire Defense Attorney Ruth Beerup?
Experience. You don't want someone learning their trade with your case. Ruth started her career in 1996 as a St. Charles County Public Defender and has been successfully advocating on her clients' behalf ever since. She understands drug law not just as it is written but as a living, real-world process. She has seen enough drug cases that she knows exactly where and how law enforcement will make mistakes and how to use those mistakes to convince a prosecutor to dismiss a case.
Ruth is well known as a fierce negotiator for her clients. She has the experience to know what a good deal is and won't back down until she gets it. She has established herself as a reasoned, caring advocate for those she represents. Her ability to humanize her clients allows prosecutors and judges to see them as people with a drug problem who need help rather than as criminals who need punishment. Ruth is a compassionate and empathetic person, and she uses those traits to understand her clients, to see what outcome would best serve their interests if a dismissal is not possible, and to formulate a plan to make that outcome happen. Most importantly, her patient and understanding way of discussing the matter at hand eases the fear, confusion and uncertainty of being charged with a serious drug crime. As always, the initial consultation on a drug case is free. You owe it to yourself to give Ruth a call at 314-323-3153.