Being out and having a good time is all well and good…until you hear the words, “place your hands behind your back; you’re under arrest.”

If controlled substances – drugs – are involved, things can get really serious, really fast.

The steps you take in the immediate aftermath of your arrest – whether you’re actually guilty of the offense or not – will play a significant role in how the rest of your life unfolds.

What Are the Penalties for Drug Possession?

It depends upon the type of drugs and the quantity. Your case can be either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Other factors that could impact your penalties include:

  • Any previous arrests
  • The location of the drug arrest (for example, if you were near a school at the time, your charges and potential penalties will likely increase), or
  • Whether a gun or other weapon was also in your possession.

If the charge is a felony, you could be facing a lengthy prison sentence, thousands in fines, and a permanent drug offender charge on your record.

Non-U.S. citizens could face the loss of a visa or green card, denial of citizenship, and possible deportation.

What Should I Do While Being Arrested?

As difficult as it may be, rein in your emotions and try your best to stay calm. Be polite with police officers as they arrest you – even if you’re innocent of the charges – and say as little as possible.

As you’re being arrested, remember that you’re not yet convicted of anything.

Once you’re at the police station, take advantage of your right to a telephone call by calling your defense lawyer. If you don’t know a defense lawyer, call a friend or family member who can help you find one.

The key is to begin aggressively fighting for your defense as soon as the arrest process is over.

What Happens After Being Arrested?

After your arrest and processing at the police station, you’ll have an arraignment hearing.

During this court proceeding, you’ll be advised of your rights – a fair trial, legal counsel, right to not incriminate yourself, etc. – and be able to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. You can also plead “no contest.”

It’s important during the arraignment to request that bail be set for your release from jail. If bail is granted and you can pay it, you’ll be able to avoid having to stay in a jail cell.

How Are Drugs Classified?

The drug you are accused of possessing will have a huge impact on whether you face a misdemeanor or felony.

Here in Indiana, the state classifies drugs in five categories, or “schedules.”

Schedule I (drugs with no known medical use) include:

Schedule II (substances with some medical use) include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Methamphetamine
  • Opium
  • Morphine

Schedule III (drugs with a host of known medical uses) include:

  • Testosterone
  • Vicodin
  • Steroids
  • Codeine

Schedule IV (prescription-based medicines)

  • Ambien
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Tramadol

Schedule V (prescribed medicines with low abuse potential)

  • Lyrica
  • Lomotil
  • Motofen
  • Parepectolin

If you’re found to be in possession of the above substances illegally and in large enough amounts, the police may think you were trying to sell it. That could carry an additional charge of intent to distribute.

What Are Effective Defenses to Charges of Drug Possession?

While feelings of shock and uncertainty are completely normal after being charged for any drug offense, there are defense strategies that are quite effective against possession charges in particular.

  • You did not know the drugs were on your person. While this defense may trigger snickers of doubt at first, the strategy is grounded in real-life events. For example, it’s not unusual for someone to be given a package through a messenger service without realizing it contained drugs.
  • You did not actually possess the drugs in question. Good examples of this defense include a homeowner not knowing about drugs being kept by a renter, or a car with several people inside being pulled over by police. In that scenario, it’s difficult for the police to know with accuracy who held the drugs.
  • Improper search or abuse of power by police. Sadly, this happens in far more cases than you may think. It’s not unusual for police officers to be caught actually planting drugs as evidence to arrest someone. Another form of police abuse is entrapment. This occurs when someone is tricked by police into buying drugs, and then arrested.

The key takeaway is this: being charged for drug possession is an incredibly intimidating thing to happen. In spite of this, keep your feelings in check, say as little as possible to police, and get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney to have your charges reduced or dismissed altogether.