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Criminal Defense

Do Drug Charges Ever Get Dropped?

5 min read
Francesca Toledo, J.D.

by Francesca Toledo, J.D.

Drug charges can mean life-changing consequences, and anyone facing a drug charge should take it very seriously. Depending on your particular drug charge and the circumstances surrounding it, drug charges can get dropped.

If you’ve been charged with a drug-related crime, you don’t have to face it alone. Unbundled Legal Help can connect you with a local drug defense lawyer.

Types of Drug Crimes

There are different drug crimes, depending on whether it is under state or federal law. State drug charges often involve shorter prison sentences or, in some cases, probation. Federal charges usually come with more severe consequences. 


It is a crime to possess illegal drugs. Drug possession is one of the most common drug charges.

Additionally, some states charge individuals with possession of drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia can include different items used to ingest drugs, like pipes or syringes.

Drug possession charges can be tricky. You can be charged with actual drug possession for having drugs on your person during a search, but you may also face charges for “constructive” possession of drugs. Constructive possession means you had knowledge of the existence of drugs. This is frequently seen when, for example, police find drugs in your glove compartment. The drugs can belong to you, but they may belong to a friend you let use your car.

If you are caught with a smaller amount of drugs, you may only face simple drug possession charges. If you are found to have a larger amount, it is common to face charges for possession with intent to distribute. 

Consequences for possession vary. For charges for simple drug possession, you may face fines, probation, or a rehab program. For possession with intent to distribute, fines and prison time are much greater, depending on the type and amount of drugs.


Distribution typically refers to a person selling or delivering controlled substances. Charges for distribution or dealing often result from smaller amounts of drugs.

To charge an individual with distribution, it must be proven that you were in possession of illegal drugs with an intent to sell. The first part is generally easy to prove, but the intent may be more challenging for authorities.

For distribution of drugs, you’ll likely face felony charges. Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors, with penalties involving hefty fines and prison time.


Along the same lines as distribution, trafficking has to do with the transportation and selling of illegal drugs. The main difference is the amount of drugs involved. Drug trafficking charges require larger quantities of drugs, meaning more serious consequences.

Those arrested for drug trafficking maybe be charged with state and federal charges, all depending on whether the drugs traveled from state to state or from another country.

Consequences for drug trafficking involve extensive prison time, usually from three years to life.


An individual can be charged with manufacturing if they play a role in cultivating or producing ingredients to make a controlled substance, or if they participate in the process of creating illegal drugs.

Charges for drug manufacturing can fall under state law, federal law, or both. Penalties typically include expensive fines and prison sentences.

How Do Law Enforcement Officers Discover Illegal Drugs?

There are many ways law enforcement officers can discover illegal drugs. It is very rare for an officer to happen to witness a drug transaction or catch an individual visibly carrying drugs or paraphernalia. Therefore, officers must rely on certain tactics to help discover illegal drugs.

Some laws protect individuals from random and illegal searches. A police officer must first have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause to conduct a search. For example, if an officer suspects an individual is in possession of illegal drugs, they may search their vehicle or obtain a search warrant to search their home. 

Should I Give Consent for a Search?

Like many legal questions, the answer is usually “it depends.” If an officer wishes to search your vehicle or enter your home, you have the right to refuse to allow the search. 

Although, if the police come knocking at your door with a search warrant, this changes the situation. In this scenario, ask the officers to see the warrant before they enter. A valid search warrant gives law enforcement a legal right to enter your home, and attempting to stop them can mean further legal trouble for you.

Possible Defenses to Drug Charges

Depending on your particular case, you may be able to utilize a defense for your drug charge. Some common defenses to drug charges can include:

  • Lack of probable cause: If an officer arrests you or searches you or your personal property without probable cause, this is unlawful. If there is evidence obtained from an unlawful search, it may be inadmissible in court.
  • Lack of evidence: There must be evidence to prove you are guilty of the crime(s) you are charged with. Without evidence, the state may not be able to find you guilty.
  • The drugs belonged to someone else: It may be possible to prove the drugs found did not belong to you and you had no knowledge of their existence.
  • Medical marijuana: Some states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Proving the marijuana is for medical necessity may lead to dropped charges.

These and other possible defenses may be available to you to help you get your drug charges dropped. To determine whether you have a valid defense for your drug charge, it is best to discuss your case with a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney for a Drug Charge?

While you are allowed to represent yourself in court, it is highly beneficial to have a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Most people are unaware of how to handle a criminal drug charge, and you only have one chance to get it right. With so much on the line, a drug charge is nothing to mess around with.

If you’re facing a drug charge, it is possible to get it dropped. You can settle a charge with the help of a criminal defense lawyer.

Get in touch with lawyers in your area through Unbundled Legal Help’s network of affordable, available defense attorneys.  Unbundled Legal Help can connect you with a locally-licensed criminal lawyer in 60 seconds on average, for an average savings of 80% of up-front fees. They’ll stand with you from start to finish.

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