New Orleans Drug Crimes Lawyer
Drug charges – even minor charges — can have an extremely serious and long-lasting impact on your life. That’s why, if you are facing drug charges in Louisiana, you need an experienced attorney to fight for you. From extensive prison sentences to fines—and the real burden of trying to rebuild your life with a criminal record—the consequences of a drug conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. It is crucial that you mount a strong and compelling defense to avoid a conviction.
“You can trust my experience to keep you protected.”— Attorney Robert S. Toale
If you or a loved one are facing drug possession and/or distribution charges in Louisiana, you must find a knowledgeable and experienced New Orleans drug crime lawyer to represent you. At the Law Office of Robert S. Toale, we offer skilled and experienced defense against all types of drug charges, including possession, manufacture, trafficking, and distribution in state and federal courts, including but not limited to:
- Cannabis & Marijuana
- Conspiracy Charges
- Drug Distribution
- Drug Court/Diversion
- Drug Trafficking
- NOLA Airport Drug Charges
- Prescription Drugs
Drug Conviction Penalties in Louisiana
The Fourth Amendment was made to protect everyone from unreasonable search and seizure. That means that the police have to follow certain policies and procedures when they stop and search anyone. If they did not follow these policies, they violated your Fourth Amendment right and any evidence gathered during an illegal search should not be admissible as evidence.
If the police did violate your rights, I will fight to keep any illegally seized evidence out of court.
Decades Of Criminal Defense Experience In Our Local Courts
Penalties for drug convictions in Louisiana vary based on the classification of the drug, the amount in your possession, and additional circumstances like whether you had an intent to distribute the drug or if it is your second or subsequent offense. Louisiana law classifies controlled dangerous substances (CDS) into five different categories or “schedules”. The most serious and dangerous drugs are classified as Schedule 1 CDS, but even convictions for a Schedule 5 CDS may include prison time and significant fines. Possession of less than 14 grams of marijuana can result in a prison sentence of 15 days and fines of $300 and a conviction for possession of heroin can carry penalties of at least 4 years at hard labor and up to 10 years, along with fines of up to $5,000.
Were Your Rights Violated?
When you choose to work with the Law Office of Robert S. Toale, we will closely examine all of the circumstances and evidence in your case to form a comprehensive defense strategy. One of the most effective defense arguments in a drug possession case involves a defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against an unlawful search and seizure.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the government is prohibited from conducting unlawful searches and seizures. Generally, law enforcement is required to obtain a warrant to search any area in which you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This warrant must be issued by a neutral magistrate.
There are a few exceptions to the warrant requirement, including:
If you voluntarily consent to a search and the police find illegal contraband or evidence of a crime within the scope of the search you consented to, the seizure of that evidence is legal and the evidence can be used by the prosecution in the court case against you. However, if you consent to a search of a limited scope, for example, your vehicle, the police cannot use that consent as a basis for searching your home.
Plain View Exception
The plain view doctrine holds that if law enforcement is able to see contraband or evidence of a crime while standing in a place they are allowed to be by law, no “search” has occurred.
Search Incident to Lawful Arrest
In order to ensure police safety and secure evidence, police are allowed to search the person and area within the wingspan of an individual they are placing under lawful arrest.
Due to the mobile nature of an automobile, the law recognizes the necessity for an exemption to the warrant requirement when police have probable cause to believe that a vehicle contains illegal contraband or evidence of a crime. However, the scope of the search must be limited to the specific evidence the police have probable cause to search for. For example, if the police have probable cause to believe a large firearm may be in the vehicle, their search must be limited to places in the vehicle where that item could reasonable fit, whereas drugs may be located in small spaces and allow for a full vehicle search, so long as there is probable cause.
Stop & Frisk
An officer may stop a person if they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred and can articulate the facts that led to their suspicion. The police may frisk the individual if there is reason to believe they may be armed.
Exigent (Emergency) Circumstances
If the police are chasing a suspect in hot pursuit, or the safety of the police, public, or the evidence itself is at stake, the circumstances may allow for a warrantless search and seizure of evidence.
If the police did not have a warrant to conduct a search and seizure and none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement apply, any evidence seized as a result of that unlawful search will be inadmissible in court. This is called the “fruits of the poisonous tree” doctrine, which reasons that if the actions leading to the seizure of evidence violated the rights of the defendant, then using that evidence against them in court would also violate their Fourth Amendment rights.
Determining whether law enforcement lawfully obtained contraband or evidence in your case involves a very fact-intensive legal analysis. This is why it is critical that you work with an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to defend you against drug possession and/or distribution charges.
To be convicted of any criminal offense, the prosecution must prove that you committed each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Evidence of possession of a CDS is crucial for any prosecutor’s case to secure a conviction against you for drug possession. If your defense attorney is able to keep this evidence out of court by successfully arguing that the evidence was seized in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights and, therefore, inadmissible in court, the prosecution is very likely to drop the charges against you, knowing that they will not be able to prove their burden in court.
If the police did violate your rights, I will fight to keep any illegally seized evidence out of court.
Can you be charged for possession of prescription drugs?
Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem around the nation and Louisiana is no exception. Over the last decade, opioid deaths have skyrocketed and criminal convictions for the unlawful possession of prescription drugs has also increased. While illegal prescription drug use and possession may seem more innocent than hard street drugs like cocaine and heroin, there are many prescription drugs that are classified in the same schedule of controlled dangerous substances (CDS) as these hard drugs.
Whether you possess a prescription drug that was prescribed to someone else, obtained through fraud, or in excess of the amount you were prescribed, all of these scenarios can lead to a drug conviction and even jail time.
To lawfully possess any prescription drug, an authorized medical professional must issue you a valid prescription. If you are found to have a CDS, like oxycodone, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, or Valium, in your possession without a prescription in your name, you may be charged with a criminal offense. Penalties for unlawful prescription drug possession vary based on the classification of the CDS.
Is It Illegal to Possess Marijuana in Louisiana?
While many states have enacted legislation to legalize marijuana, it is still illegal to possess marijuana for recreational use in Louisiana. Medicinal use of marijuana has been legal in Louisiana since 1978, but you must have one of 18 qualifying conditions and a valid recommendation from a physician. If you have been diagnosed with one of these qualifying conditions and obtain a recommendation from an authorized doctor, you can fill your prescription at a dispensary that serves your region.
If you are not a medical marijuana patient in Louisiana, you may not lawfully possess marijuana. If you are charged with possession of marijuana, you may be facing jail time for possession of even the smallest amount of marijuana. In fact, even marijuana residue on drug paraphrenia may result in a marijuana possession charge.
Louisiana Drug Crime FAQs
At the Law Offices of Robert S. Toale, we have over 30 years of experience zealously defending our clients against a broad range of charges. We have extensive experience fielding drug charges at both the state and federal levels. Drug crimes vary by state and between state and federal laws. Some states have legalized the recreational use of drugs such as marijuana, while it remains severely punished in others. Below we answer some of the more common questions we receive from our clients about drug crimes. Contact the Law Office of Robert S. Toale with any additional questions or if you are facing drug crime charges in New Orleans, Gretna, or Jefferson Parish.
Do I have to let the police into my house if they ask to search for drugs?
If the police show up at your house and ask to come inside to search, you are not required to let them enter without a warrant. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects your right to be free from unlawful searches, which includes warrantless searches. Regardless of whether they produce a warrant, you should contact a knowledgeable defense attorney. If the police have shown up, it likely means you are under investigation. If they seize any evidence unlawfully (e.g., without a warrant), your attorney can seek to have that evidence excluded from your case.
Can I be charged for possession of “paraphernalia” even if I do not have any drugs on me?
In Louisiana, you can be charged with the possession of drug paraphernalia as long as the government can show that you had the “intent” to use it to sell, package, manufacture, or use illegal drugs. Talk to your defense attorney about how best to handle such charges; even a misdemeanor plea can have a significant effect on your record and your future.
What are the “levels” of drug crimes in Louisiana?
Louisiana divides controlled substances into five “schedules.” Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous, with no recognized medicinal value and a high potential for abuse and addiction. Possession and sale of Schedule I drugs are punished the most severely. Schedule II, III, IV, and V decrease in danger and addictiveness and increase in recognized medicinal usage. Penalties for the lower schedules are less severe.
What are the penalties for drug crime convictions?
Punishments vary depending on the schedule of the drug, the quantity, and whether the conviction is for possession, sale, or trafficking. Possession of a Schedule I drug can yield a fine of anywhere from $5,000 to $600,000 depending on the quantity. Possession of 400 grams, for example, yields a minimum $250,000 fine and a prison range of 15 to 30 years. Penalties for possession of a Schedule V drug top out at a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
If you have prior convictions for the same or other crimes you may face more severe penalties, potentially doubling the fine or prison term. There are also sentence enhancements for possession or sale near a school or day care center, possession or use of a weapon during sale, and many other circumstances. A knowledgeable Louisiana defense attorney can go through the specific penalties you may be facing, depending on the circumstances surrounding your charges, and help you fight for the most favorable resolution.
What about selling marijuana?
Trafficking in marijuana, meaning the distribution and sale of marijuana, is very illegal under both Louisiana and federal law. If you are charged with trafficking and caught with between 60 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana, you face felony charges and between five and thirty years in a Louisiana state prison. For trafficking between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds of marijuana, you face between 10 and 40 years in prison. Beyond 10,000 pounds, you face 25 to 40 years’ incarceration.
Can I get a misdemeanor or felony drug crime arrest or conviction expunged from my record?
Yes. Arrests and convictions will stay on your record forever unless you have them expunged. Most misdemeanors can be expunged after completion of your probation and sentence, assuming you have had no felony convictions during that period. Likewise, many non-violent felony convictions can be expunged 10 years from the completion of your sentence, parole, and probation, assuming you have had no other convictions during that 10-year period.
Decades of New Orleans Drug Crime Experience in Our Local Courts
At the Law Office of Robert S. Toale, we are committed to providing our clients with an aggressive defense to obtain the best result possible. With over 35 years of criminal defense experience, we will devote our skill and knowledge to forming a comprehensive defense strategy. We will leave no rock unturned and passionately defend your rights and future. If you or a loved one have been arrested for a drug offense in Louisiana, do not face these charges alone. An effective criminal defense strategy involves an in-depth knowledge of criminal statutes, criminal procedures, and the laws regarding the admissibility of evidence.
Do not jeopardize your future and freedom by facing a drug charge alone. At the Law Office of Robert S. Toale in Gretna, Louisiana, we offer consultations. Our New Orleans drug crime lawyers would be happy to discuss the facts of your case and begin building a defense strategy that may result in the dismissal of the charges against you. To request a consultation contact us online or call 504-370-9233.