What You Need to Know About Misdemeanor Drug Offenses
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.
Modified Transcript of “What You Need to Know About Misdemeanor Drug Offenses” for the Hearing Impaired
Announcer: You're listening to Law Talk with Bill Powers. Your resource for answers to your most pressing legal questions. Attorney Bill Powers sits down with some of today's leading legal minds to discuss everything from legal issues and legislation to practice tips and policy. Now, here is your host an MBTA board certified criminal law specialist, former president of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and renowned trial lawyer, Bill Powers.
Robert Ingalls: Welcome back to another episode of Law Talk with Attorney Bill Powers. I am Robert Ingalls and I will be your guest host for this episode. I am sitting here with Bill Powers and we're going to be talking about misdemeanor drug offenses today. How are you, Bill?
Bill Powers: I am well.
Robert Ingalls: Alright. Good to be here, man. Thanks for having me involved again. I love this. I know you have been doing criminal defense for a number of years. How long have you been dealing with misdemeanor drug offenses?
Bill Powers: You mean as an attorney? I've been practicing since 1992, so I guess it's relative to when someone is listening to this. So, right now it's 2017, about the end of the year.
Robert Ingalls: It's a good minute.
Bill Powers: A couple of decades.
Robert Ingalls: You're dating yourself a little bit there. One of the questions that I know is in my mind, not that this is something I deal with, but what do you in that moment that you have been pulled over and they found something, perhaps in your car, or they've come to your house, they've searched your person. Now, you are either holding a citation or you have found yourself in an orange jumpsuit. What do you do?
Bill Powers: Stop talking. The first thing you do is stop talking. In fact, the thing you do before you stop talking is stop talking. I wish people would exercise their fifth amendment right to remain silent. It's like the saying, "I have the right to remain silent, but not the ability," and I borrowed that term. I think the best thing is to when you're in Dutch, when you're in some trouble is to stop talking.
If you've got a citation, if you've been arrested, it's time to realize that talking thus far has not helped you in any way most likely. I guess it's possible. Let me think of some situation, but generally speaking, you don't want to be talking about what took place further with the police offer while you're riding down to the jail, or if you're in the jail, you don't want to be talking to your new best friend, the cellie, about what happened.
You don't want to be talking on the phone or the video chats that they have now with our jails, because those are often times recorded. The person you want to speak to and talk to is an attorney, because we have something called attorney client privilege. It actually should be called client attorney privilege, because it's your privilege and the attorney enforces it or protects it. The things you tell me as your lawyer, I keep confidential.
I don't talk about it. I don't discuss it, and by affording that privilege under the law, the idea behind it is that lawyers can provide sound advice or counsel to the best way for you to proceed. There's a reason they call us attorneys and counselors at law. We counsel you. The only person, really, you should be talking to about your case is your lawyer. That's something I found over years, is I wish so many times people had stopped talking. It would have made their lives and my job easier.
Robert Ingalls: Gotcha. It sounds like, perhaps, the first thing you should do after you stop talking is call an attorney.
Bill Powers: Sure, and that's assuming you're not still in the hoosegow. That's assuming that you're out of jail. I would say half our cases, especially the more serious cases, are family members calling. We tell the family the same thing, "Don't talk about the case. If you go into the jail, don't talk to them about the facts of the case. Do not discuss the facts of the case on the telephone or video conference channel. Don't talk about the case."
Robert Ingalls: Is that stuff when it gets to court, if they had talked about it, it could be used in that moment?
Bill Powers: Sure. I have seen it. They roll the cart out ... I didn't even know they made boomboxes anymore, but they rolled out a boombox and played the tape, and I'm showing my age, they played the DVD or CD. I've had cases where they introduce the letters that people have written back and forth to one another. You don't really have a lot of rights to privacy in jail.
Robert Ingalls: When the inmate writes a letter out, it gets read on the way out?
Bill Powers: I haven't seen that as much as I have seen incoming mail. Now having said that, as soon as I said that, I did have a case where it was an outgoing letter, but it was more of a conspiratorial type of thing. They may have [inaudible 00:05:05] and since gotten a warrant, but don't just assume that because you put an envelope that some United States Postal Service right protects you.
Robert Ingalls: Err on the side of caution. Don't put things down in writing that you don't want to be read later in the court of law.
Bill Powers: Perfect. I couldn't have said it better.
Robert Ingalls: One of the most common ones that I hear about is small charges, and people seem to almost feel like since it's not against the law in other places, maybe it's not that big of a deal here anymore, something like having marijuana or having a pipe on you. What does that set you up for? Is that something that you need to take seriously?
Bill Powers: Absolutely. I always try to preface my comments by saying that we offer advice not judgemental, kind of getting on people. We're not trying to be judgemental at all. This is me giving information on the state of the law in North Carolina as it is, not as opposed to what I think it should be or what it may be in other states.