We’re not concerned with how or why you had drugs on you in the first place. If you’re caught with illegal drugs in your possession, you may be in serious trouble. Having even a small amount of an illegal substance, such as heroin, is a federal crime. Depending on your jurisdiction and how many times you’ve been caught with drugs in the past, you could wind up in prison for a long, long time.
Obviously, you’ll want to avoid this outcome. While you may not have much control to change this situation once it starts unfolding, you can control your own actions within that situation—and get access to the resources you need to come out on top.
What to Do First
These are the most important steps to take first:
- Remain calm. Before anything else, work on remaining calm. The flashing lights of a police car and the threat of arrest might amp up your adrenaline, but it’s important that you think calmly and rationally during this process. You need to make informed, cautious decisions, and speak in a controlled, deliberate manner. You won’t be able to do this if you’re too excited or are making emotional decisions.
- Avoid confessing or speaking too much. Law enforcement officers will likely be asking you lots of questions, but it’s important to avoid confessing to possession of the drugs at this time. Feel free to answer any straightforward questions about your personal identity, like your name and address, but avoid saying too much about anything else. If pressed, state that you’d prefer to wait for a lawyer to answer those questions.
- Politely comply with the orders of law enforcement. Your instinct may drive you to avoid getting arrested, especially if you feel like there isn’t hope of being found not guilty of drug possession or having the charges dropped. However, trying to evade an officer or fighting back against one can lead to a resisting arrest charge, which is only going to make your life more complicated. It’s also a good idea to remain as polite as possible. Officers are going to be much less forgiving or cooperative with someone who’s cussing them out or behaving belligerently.
- Call a lawyer as early as possible. At the first available opportunity, get in contact with a lawyer. A lawyer will help you in many different ways throughout this process, providing you with a better understanding of the charges you’re facing, protecting you from excessive questioning, and providing you with guidance on what to do next. After being arrested, you’ll have the chance to make a phone call. Consider calling a lawyer directly or calling a family member or friend who can help you find a lawyer.
Once you have a lawyer, you’ll have access to much more specific, informed advice on how to proceed.
What to Expect Next
After being arrested for possession of drugs, there are several things that could happen next, depending on the situation. Drugs are categorized into several different schedules of increasing severity, based on the accepted medical use of the drug (if any) and the chances for long-term dependency. Circumstances surrounding your drug possession, like whether a minor was present at the time of your possession, may also affect the severity of your case. The outcome may also change depending on whether this is your first or second offense.
Ultimately, you may be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. In either case, you can expect one or all of the following:
- Bail. If you don’t want to wait in jail for your scheduled court appearance, you’ll need to post bail. This essentially means you’ll need to come up with a set amount of money (based on your crime and potential flight risk) to temporarily provide as a guarantee that you’ll show up to court.
- Plea agreement. In some cases, you may get a deal for admitting to possession. In some cases, you may get off with just a fine. In others, you may get a reduced sentence. Your lawyer will help you understand how this works in your case.
- Court. In other cases, you may go to court. If an officer mishandled evidence or the arrest, or if there isn’t sufficient evidence for a conviction, you may be found not guilty of the crime.
The obvious advice here is to avoid getting caught with illegal drugs in the first place. Avoid using, distributing, or holding illegal drugs in any way, and you shouldn’t ever have to worry about following the rest of these steps.
However, if you do ever find yourself in this position, it’s important to remain calm, stay quiet, follow orders, and most importantly, contact a lawyer as soon as possible.