Top Defenses Against Criminal Charges That You Should Know About

Whether you have been charged with the possession of a controlled substance or illicit drug, or with trafficking with the intention to sell or distribute drugs illegally, there are a number of legal defenses that can help you reduce the severity of sentencing, particularly if it is a first time offense.

As a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago, our firm has seen decades of cases and designed strategic defense plans to serve our clients.  We’ll review some of the key defense strategies used successfully in court.

Denial of Ownership

You’ve probably already heard the saying that possession is 9/10th of the law, and this statement is most true when it comes to a drug or illicit substance charge.  The worst thing you can do after being searched or having your premises searched for drugs is to admit ownership of the drugs, particularly if there is a large amount of drugs found in the discovery.

Penalties for drug possession increased dramatically when quantities are above and beyond what the law determines to be representative of individual use.  The possession of a small amount of marijuana might be construed as individual property for recreation purposes. To be clear, possession of marijuana is still a felony offense, however if you were in possession of a garbage bag full of marijuana, a case will be built for trafficking in distribution of illicit substances.

While it is not recommended to perjure yourself by being dishonest with the authorities, you may simply opt to remain silent when asked about ownership of the drugs, until you have had time to consult with your legal counsel.

Medicinal Use

The prevalence of the use of medicinal marijuana and the legalization of medicinal marijuana in many states has created a plausible defense for the medicinal use.  While a drug card is required to identify a licensed user of medicinal cannabis, many people do not qualify and may have a perfectly reasonable pain symptom, anxiety disorder or other health condition that is being medicated through the use of marijuana.

The existence of a medical condition which has been proven to be assisted by some medical marijuana is a valid defense, and while the possession of marijuana is still a felony offense, the court and jury may look on the situation with empathy given the health condition of the accused. In many cases where an individual has a terminal illness and has been found in the possession of marijuana, sentences have been dramatically reduced by compassionate jurors.

Malicious Intent

Nobody likes to go through life thinking that someone else is out to get them. However in some cases where there is bad blood between former spouses, romantic relationships and partners, or even family members there is the potential for illicit substances to be planted with the purpose of creating an arrest scenario.  A malicious intent can be proven by documentation which can include emails and phone records, or verbalized threats promise and action that will create legal consequences for the defendant.

Laboratory Analysis

There have been examples where a drug arrest has been made and property has been seized which appeared at the time of seizure to be an illicit substance. After investigative examination of the substance, it may be determined that it was not an illicit drug after all.

There have been cases where young adults have attempted to sell something that looks like an illicit drug.  Aspirin tablets have been crushed to look like cocaine, oregano has been used in place of marijuana, and colored paper with no controlled substance has been used to mimic acid and sold by distributors.  As ridiculous as it sounds, drug deals that involve artificial drugs or harmless materials do happen and a laboratory analysis will confirm if the substance is harmless.

In the event that an individual is charged with attempting to sell drugs or traffic drugs, the case may be reduced to to a misdemeanor or mischief charge rather than a drug-related offense.


Imagine a scenario where someone is offering to sell you drugs and you refuse repeatedly. Nonetheless the individual keeps coming back to you, offering to sell you drugs, and continues to harass you and pressure you until you relent to purchase.  At that time you are arrested for purchasing and possession of a controlled substance.

There are laws that govern the behavior of the authorities when investigating drug-related offenses.  The law is clear about what an officer can and cannot do when undercover, and coercing someone to purchase drugs aggressively is defined as entrapment.  The court realizes that the purchase of the illicit substance would not have occurred without undue pressure from the law enforcement officer, and with the right evidence, the argument is an effective one, particularly with a witness.

There are laws that are established to protect your rights, the right to search and seize illicit property, and to charge a defendant with possession of drugs. However knowing your rights is the first step to ensure that you protect your interests in the event of a drug charge.

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