Did you hear about Joseph Lee Gary?
After falling asleep in his white Nissan Altima, police officers came to make a welfare check. After allegedly giving officers consent to search his vehicle, they found 77 Xanax pills, used syringes, fentanyl, and 1.6 g of methamphetamine.
Gary was immediately taken to the Ouachita Correctional Center and charged with 2 counts of possession of a controlled substance. What should he do now?
If you or someone you know is dealing with a drug charge in Louisiana, this article is for you. What’s the best way to handle first offense felony drug charges? Read on to find out.
Pretrial Diversion Opportunities
Is this your very first time dealing with first-offense felony drug charges? You might be able to qualify for a pretrial diversion opportunity. In other words, the DA could drop your possession charges for good. Qualified first-time offenders who don’t have any violent felonies or misdemeanor charges might get approved.
Getting into the pretrial program must be negotiated between your lawyer and the prosecutor. The prosecutor has full discretion as to who they let into the program. There is no requirement that they let you in. It is not automatic. Sometimes, your lawyer will have to do extensive negotiating to make you eligible.
If you don’t have a felony record, receiving eligibility for a pretrial diversion may be possible. It’ll help if your drug charges for something simple like possession of marijuana.
Pretrial diversion programs are entirely voluntary. However, if you qualify for one, it’ll be best to attend it fully. Instead of going to court, you’ll be able to complete a series of the objective set forth by the program.
For instance, you might have to attend a drug awareness class or treatment. If the district attorney believes that you are eligible for the pretrial diversion program, you’ll enter a not guilty plea.
The same plea you choose will depend on the extent of your charges. As long as you fulfill certain obligations within the pretrial diversion program, you’ll be able to forgo further sentencing.
In addition to taking a class, the diversion program might also ask you to pay some fee, undergo drug or alcohol testing, and even participate in counseling for drug abuse. After successfully fulfilling all obligations, the district attorney can finally dismiss the case.
There won’t be any conviction on your record, but you will still have an arrest. We suggest hiring an attorney to file a motion to expunge the arrest record.
Mistakes to Avoid When Handling Felony Drug Charges
You should learn your rights when it comes to handling an arrest. Did you know that you’re not legally required to talk to officers during an arrest?
You’ll need to provide the officers with your license and registration when they ask for it. You can also verify that you’re the person on the license.
However, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you stop talking at that point. Many individuals make the mistake of talking to police officers who have arrested them without their attorney present.
You could say incriminating words that wind up putting you in a worse position. You might think that you’re proving your innocence, but what you’re really doing is helping the police build a case against you.
To avoid this hassle reach out to an attorney the moment that you’re arrested. If police officers insist on you speaking to them, let them know you have an attorney. Tell them that your attorney advised you not to answer any questions without them present.
Understanding Louisiana’s Legal Process
What happens after receiving a drug possession charge for the first time in Louisiana? The legal process is very straightforward. Your arrest file goes directly to the district attorney’s office.
A receipt from the file will be assigned to an individual prosecutor about a month after your arrest. The prosecutor will hold on to the receipt until you’ve made your appearance in court.
You may simply have to pay a fee instead of attending court. The extent of your drug charges is going to determine whether you go to court or pay a fee.
After another 2 weeks, the prosecutor is going to review the file to make determinations about how to go forward with your trial. If there isn’t enough evidence against you, the prosecutor might decide to throw the case away altogether. If they believe a trial is necessary, you’ll receive an arraignment date.
The date of arraignment is when you’ll go before a judge. You will be able to use your right to an attorney if you can’t afford one on your own.
After the arraignment, you’ll receive a trial date. The trial is where you complete your case, and witnesses can be called to testify. You can find out here what happens if your skip court.
Gain the Court’s Trust
As a first-time offender, you’re in a unique situation to gain the court’s trust. You’ve never had issues with drugs before, and you may be able to prove that you’ll never have issues again.
If there’s someone in your community that has a good standing and knows your character, have them write a letter for you. This could be somebody who’s a police officer, preacher, or another type of credible person within your community.
You should also look into counseling opportunities. Even if you’re not dealing with an addiction, proving that you’re bettering yourself will go a long way towards keeping you out of jail.
We also suggest volunteering for community service before the sentencing begins. You’ll be able to show that you want to serve the community and have a positive impact.
If you don’t already have a job, do whatever you can to secure one now. Having a job helps the Court see that you’re responsible and trustworthy.
Handling First Offense Felony Drug Charges
We hope that this article was able to point you in the right direction when facing first offense felony drug charges. Now you know that staying silent after an arrest is in your best interest. It’s also a good idea to do everything to qualify for a pretrial diversion program.
Since navigating the court system can be difficult, reach out to criminal attorney Carl Barkemeyer today. He serves the Louisiana area and has experience dealing with the judges you’ll face.