A narcotics task force that included the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and other drug agencies recently conducted an enhanced street operation in Meridian last weekend. The three-hour investigation resulted in the arrest of six suspects, half of whom have records of felony convictions, on charges of possession or intent to sell narcotics including marijuana, cocaine and meth.
While this sweep has affected other parts of Mississippi, the state drug task force has the intention to come back to Meridian in the future. Lauderdale County officials indicated that there is space in the Meridian jail to contain those convicted.
When possession leads to trafficking charges
Mississippi laws are serious, even for possession of controlled substances for personal use. But the penalties go up when intent to distribute is combined with possession charges. In this case, both federal and state laws may apply. Drug distribution and trafficking penalties can result in sentences of three to five years or more, with the penalties going up depending on the quantities in possession.
In Mississippi, possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor charge with penalties that depend on the number of prior convictions. Both crystal methamphetamine and cocaine are Schedule II substances, meaning they are drugs with a high potential for abuse. Possession of more than 30 grams but less than one kilogram can result in up to 30 years in prison.
What triggers federal charges is if the drugs travelled across state lines or if law enforcement seizes quantities above a certain amount. In addition, drug laws prohibit the possession of paraphernalia such as bongs, crack pipes or syringes.
Building a defense against drug charges
In pursuing drug charges, the prosecution must be able to prove that the accused knew that the drug in question was a controlled substance, that they were aware that it was in their possession, and that they had the intent to distribute the illegal drug.
There are several defenses that can effectively counter accusations of possession:
- that law enforcement violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure prior to arrest
- that law enforcement violated the individual’s Miranda Rights
- that there was not enough evidence to prove that the drug even belonged to the defendant or that the defendant knew that the drug was in their possession
- that there was tainted crime lab analysis
- that there was entrapment or planted drugs
Being charged with a drug-related crime can be an intimidating experience. Knowing your rights and constitutional protections is the first step toward mounting a strong defense.