While Alabama's drug laws carry some of the harshest penalties of any state in the nation, there are ways to get charges reduced or even dropped. With a dedicated, tenacious attorney like me, Jonathan C. McCardle, on your side, you may be able to avoid Alabama's severe sentences. Listed below are a few methods for reducing charges.
One of the first steps in building a defense is to challenge whether the officers involved in the arrest had probable cause to stop you and search for controlled substances. When police officers don't have a warrant, they often ask for permission to search in such a way that it sounds as if you have no choice but to say yes. This is a violation of your fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures.
The legal concept of constructive possession assumes that you have knowledge of any controlled substance in your home or car. To bring charges, the state must prove that you knew about the drugs and knew they were illegal. The presence of controlled substances alone is not enough to prove possession.
Alabama offers two types of counseling services for first-time offenders and those with "minor" criminal records. These programs move cases into a "pre-trial" status while defendants go through counseling. If you are charged with drug crimes and successfully complete one of these programs, you can avoid a criminal conviction.
The first type of counseling program involves initially pleading guilty to a judge. The judge does not accept the plea, withholds handing down a verdict and assigns an appropriate counseling program. If the defendant successfully completes the counseling program, the guilty plea is discarded and charges are dropped. If the defendant fails to complete the program, the case goes back to the judge and a sentence is handed down.
The second type of counseling program involves submitting a written confession rather than a simple plea of guilty. Successful completion of these programs also results in charges being dropped. However, if the defendant fails to complete the program, the case goes to trial and the signed confession can be used against the defendant.
The penalties handed down for a program involving a guilty plea tend to be more severe than sentences for programs involving a signed confession. Circumstances surrounding the charges and arrest help determine which program makes the most sense in each case.