What You Need to Know About Misdemeanor Drug Offenses - Part 4
Jan 4, 2018
Being charged with a misdemeanor drug offense can be a scary situation. This podcast episode is here to help.
North Carolina Attorney Bill Powers has been defending misdemeanor drug offenses for 25 years. In this episode, Attorney Powers answers the questions that matter to you when you when you've been charged with a drug offense.
I always say we're in the land of, "I have been charged", and I want to get to the village of "how do I not have a conviction on my record?" Do we go over the top of the mountain? Is there a direct path? Is it more circuitous? We know where we are. We know where we want to go. The question is how we get there. Now, does that mean we take something to trial? Do we go hardcore and argue about the legality of the stop or test the drug itself? Is it actually the drug they say it is?
I think a lot of people, I call it the Matt Locke kind of deal. You're going to go all Matt Locke on this case. Sometimes, we do that and most times we are able to work some other aspect out. Do we go through a deferral program? Do we go through some treatment? Do we get an assessment? Do we so some community service? Then we map out how we want to handle this. I don't like it when I hear people have said, "I'll just sign up for the class. I'm just going to handle it myself through the D.I.Y."
It may have not been the best idea for you. There may have been another option. Before you start taking action, it makes sense to say, "Stop. Timeout. Let's get a snapshot of where we are," and then assess what the most appropriate methodology is or the way it is to go forward with the case. I'm not trying to be stern about it. Again, I'm not trying to be judgemental with my client, but I want to sit down whether it's remotely or in the jail and start asking some basic questions.
I tell people, "I may interrupt you." I'm not trying to be rude, but there may be something I need to know that you don't realize is important, and if you go on, and on, and on about some extraneous fact, I may cut you off and say, "That's really not important. Let's focus on big picture items."
Robert Ingalls: I think that's important as well, because when I was in practice, that was something I saw is someone had done the DIY the first time, and they didn't realize that there has been another option available to them that we could have used the first time, and we could've used the option they used on time number two. Then, they would hae gone through and had no convictions. Instead, we were in a position where we ended having to go the Matt Locke route, because we didn't have that second option available to us.
Bill Powers: There is some things that you can DIY. I use Amazon and I look around and if I want a T-shirt ... I was actually, last night, looking and I loved these, you've heard of these flat Earth people. I want to get a flat Earth T-shirt. I want to be ironic and wear a flat Earth, I think the Earth is flat.
Robert Ingalls: I am aware of them.
Bill Powers: When you're buying a flat Earth T-shirt on Amazon and you see its 100 percent cotton, you're going with do I get free delivery and how much is it going to cost me? Do they have my size? Is it going to take me two days to get it? Am I in Prime or is it going to take me six weeks to get it? Law isn't that way, or it shouldn't be that way. One, I guess you could buy a screen printing machine and make your own T-shirt, which is kind of DIY, but you don't always want to go with the cheapest option, or what you perceive to be the easiest option, because it's not always the same.
How cases are handled are not fungible goods. That's a law term meaning that it's just this widget a for price whatever. There's a bit of nuance to it. It's complex. There's a reason why it's a JD, which stands for jurist doctorate. I'm not trying to be a smarty pants here, but we go to law school and have to pass this really hard test for a reason, because this stuff's complicated and hard. Now, the DIY, I would say, and this is completely anecdotal. This isn't based on any statistic. It's based on a statistic I just made up in my head.
On an anecdotal basis, I'd say half the cases I see I'm like, "Why did you do that? That is not what I would have done. There may have been another option." Signing up for a class and they're like, "Oh, I got it dismissed." Well, maybe you got it dismissed, but maybe you wrote a statement as part of the dismissal where you've admitted on such and such a date I did knowingly, intentionally, willfully, and unlawfully possess blah, blah, blah and you signed the bottom of that, and now that's somewhere in the ether of your life on the internet that may or may not be able to be-
Robert Ingalls: Just waiting for someone to find it when you're running for office.
Bill Powers: Right or applying for a job, or wanting to get some sort of housing. I've said this before and I say it on almost an everyday basis, but I really believe it. The saying is, "Don't just stand there. Do something." Law is the exact opposite. Don't just do something. Stand there. Don't make the second mistake. The first mistake is what got you in trouble in the first place. The second mistake is trying to resolve it and not really thinking through the process. I'm not trying to sound like my dad here, but my daddy has put time up. Put his hands up and and say, "Time out. Blow the whistle."
When you do a time out and blow the whistle, that means actions stop. No one's doing anything. No one's dribbling the ball. No one's running back and forth. No one's trying to score any points, and it's not counting against you. The clock stops. It's part of the game. Not to say law's a game, but I'm using the idea that sometimes saying time out on life is a good thing. It's not just how cases are handled in court, but also what got you here. I take this role very seriously, and I don't know if law enforcement always realizes this, but we modulate the messages that clients are sending.