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How to Handle Drug-Related Arrests and Incarceration

If you are a first-time offender who was arrested and will possibly be indicted on drug-related charges, you may be unclear as to what the process entails. If there is a chance you will be incarcerated for any amount of time, it’s important to understand how to prepare for this event and what to expect from your time behind bars. If you’ve never been arrested for any drug-related offenses, but partake in illicit drug use, are often are in possession of controlled or illicit substances or commit crimes to earn the money to purchase drugs, understanding how arrests are handled can be useful as well.

The Arrest

If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer and are found with illegal possession of a controlled substance or narcotics, it can be a panic-inducing situation, but it’s crucial to stay calm. Depending on where you live and jurisdiction, the consequences of what schedule drug you are holding, as well as the amount, will all vary in terms of implications. Answer the policeman’s questions calmly and refrain from arguing or resisting in order to avoid worsening the situation or receiving additional charges.

Once at the station, you will be allowed to make a phone call, which should be to a lawyer or your family, so they can contact a lawyer in your name. If you have a set bail until your arraignment, you will be allowed to avoid spending prolonged time in a jail cell. Once your arraignment date is set, you will enter the courthouse where the charges filed against you are listed, and you will be prepared to enter a plea, guilty or non-guilty.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor

Depending on the substance you possessed and the quantity, you will either be facing a felony or misdemeanor charge. These charges can be deemed as “aggravated” if there are other elements at play like possession in presence of a minor, near or inside a drug treatment facility, public place or housing, and near or on school grounds to name a few. If the substance is schedule I or schedule II in a large quantity, most likely a felony charge will be presented. Quantity matters in these cases because the law will assume you had intention to distribute or sell, even if you maintain the drugs were only for you.

Jail Time or Court-Mandated Rehabilitation

For most first offenders, the law may be more lenient, but everything is dependent on the kind of drug and amount possessed at the time of the arrest or severity of other crimes committed. If you aren’t able to avoid prison or jail time and are actively addicted to opioids, it’s possible to enroll into a medication-assisted treatment program while you are serving your time. In some cases, those found guilty for drug possession that are currently battling substance use disorder may be given an opportunity to enroll in treatment that is mandated by the court.

Most recently, the justice system has been making efforts to avoid putting people with an illness like addiction behind bars, and instead, giving them an opportunity to seek treatment. With a combination of probation and rehabilitation, the goal is to help people who are sick, while leaving jail time for illicit drug distributors and manufacturers.

If you find yourself at risk of having a run-in with the law due to your substance use or frequent possession, there are ways to get help before the worst can happen. Many police stations offer services for users who would like to surrender their illicit drugs and receive help with treatment enrollment. There are also outpatient clinics who take walk-ins regularly. Avoid problems with the law by taking control back over your life and treating your addiction today.


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