Stockmann Law represents many individuals involved in drug busts, who are charged with possession with intent to deliver narcotics (often referred to as PWID). This indicates that the person charged had the intent of dealing or selling drugs, which many understand to mean that drugs would have to be found on their person. Often, however, clients complain that the police charge them with PWID despite the fact that the police did not recover any drugs off of them at the time of arrest. Surprisingly, this is perfectly lawful. You do not need to have drugs on you to be charged, and even more importantly, convicted of possession with intent to deliver. In fact, it may trouble you further to find out that you do not even have to have sold or delivered drugs to be convicted either. But how is that possible?
Drug Busts – Narcotics Surveillance
Law enforcement will often target known drug corners by setting up surveillance from an undercover car or another confidential location. The “eyes” or officer watching will wait for a dealer to start selling, with back-up units waiting in cars in the surrounding area. Within a couple of hours, police will confirm that a money transaction has taken place between the buyers and the dealer. The dealer may leave to retrieve the drugs from another area, such as a drainpipe or house, which will also be noted.
Once the drugs have been exchanged for money, the buyers will be tracked by the “eyes” until the back-up unit stops and searches them. If the detained buyers are found to have drugs in their possession, then the officer’s suspicions are confirmed and backup moves into position for the “take down.” If the dealer is arrested and has no drugs on their person, a case can still be made if they are found to have drug money. The spot where the dealer retrieved the drugs can also be tracked and the drugs uncovered. Again, no drugs were actually found on the dealer, but the prosecution has more than enough evidence to prove the defendant guilty of possession with intent to deliver.
Drug Busts – Conspiring to Sell Drugs
As any business owner can tell you, it takes a lot of employees to run a business—and drug businesses are no different. The dealer cannot possibly run the whole operation, so he needs small time dealers on the streets to move the “product.” He employs people as “lookouts” to make sure police are not trying to shut down the corner, similar to loss prevention officers at department stores. Someone needs to supply the dealer with the drugs he is selling and provide him additional drugs when he is sold out. And since no dealer likes to have too much money on the corner in the event of an arrest, someone must take and store the money off the corner. Law enforcement observes their actions and arrests individuals working with the dealer as co-conspirators, even though none of them were in possession of drugs at the time they were arrested.
Drug Busts – Traffic Stops
Nebraska police come up with all sorts of reasons to stop cars in high drug trafficking areas, like the now infamous Interstate 80. Failing to turn on a signal, rolling through a stop sign, and a broken tail light are just some of the superfluous reasons police use to pull someone over if they suspect the driver has drugs. If the police approach a car and see furtive movements towards the floor of vehicle, or if the driver appears very nervous, then the officer has a right to “fear for their safety.” They will then probably ask the driver for consent to search the vehicle.
If the preliminary search of the car does not yield drugs, the driver can still be arrested if he is found to have plastic baggies or wads of cash on his person. Suspecting drugs are in the car, the officer will then get a search and seizure warrant for the car, and will probably call out the K-9 unit. Upon execution of the warrant, police eventually find more baggies and the drugs hidden in the car. At the time of arrest, the driver did not have any drugs on him, but the evidence is fairly strong that he constructively possessed the drugs with the intent to sell them.
Drug Busts – Postal Service Interdiction
Many drug dealers have couriers that send drugs through the mail from source states. Oftentimes, the recipient is not even aware that the package contains drugs, as usually they are just instructed to sign for the package and alert the dealer upon its arrival. Once police in the source state get a warrant to open the package, they can confirm that there are drugs within it. Police then confiscate the package at the post office, seal it up and send it to its destination; however, instead of a normal mailman delivering the package, it is a police officer or postal police officer in disguise. At this point, the police have already obtained an anticipatory search warrant from a magistrate to serve on the source house, if all goes as planned. Once the receiver is paid and the package is taken to the dealer, the car is stopped and the package retrieved. Both occupants of the car are arrested and charged with possession with intent to deliver marijuana, conspiracy and related offenses.
The package was not on either the driver or passenger at the time of their arrest and the driver was never seen holding the drugs. But again, the evidence of their possession and intent to deliver the drugs seized is fairly strong. They could try to claim that they had no knowledge of what was in the package or the driver could argue mere presence, but defending a case like this would be difficult.
Drug Busts – Search and Seizure
All drug dealers need to store their drugs at some location before they are sold on the streets. Oftentimes, confidential informants or neighbors provide the police with tips about houses where drugs are being stored and sold. Surveillance is then set up and they observe buyers as they approach the house and exchange money for drugs, while buyers are often stopped and searched for drugs. Undercover officers and confidential informants also use pre-recorded buy money to makes purchases from dealers selling from houses.
Once enough evidence has been gathered to prove that drugs are being sold from a property, the police seek permission to execute a search and seizure warrant on the house. Once executed, the drugs, drug paraphernalia, and pre-recorded buy money are seized from the property as proof of residence and other evidence of drug activity.
Later, the undercover officer will identify the individuals who answered the door and dealt with the buyers and arrest him for PWID. He may have no drugs on him, but there will likely be evidence in his home linking him to the drug sale operation, such as power bills bill and letters in his name at that address, a gun in his possession, and pre-recorded buy money that was used hours earlier when an informant made a purchase inside the house—all creating strong direct and circumstantial evidence that he was operating a drug business from the property.
You do not need to be in possession of drugs at the time of your arrest or be seen delivering or selling drugs to be charged with possession with intent to deliver. It is what you intend to do with drugs that you actually or constructively possess that becomes a legal issue. Despite the above examples which demonstrate strong evidence of guilt, that does not mean that there are no defenses to possession with intent to deliver charges in drug busts.
Intent to deliver drugs is a very serious charge, the classification of which is almost always a felony; although, it is often determined by the number of grams of the drug that are in the person’s possession or were delivered. For example, a possession with the intent to deliver methamphetamine or cocaine is a class II felony that carries 1-50 years in prison. However, depending on the quantity involved, those penalties can increase to 3-50 years, 5-50 years or 20-life. Possession with the intent to deliver marijuana is a class III felony that carries 1-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
The likelihood of prison time can be high for these types of drug busts. That is why calling an experienced firm, like Stockmann Law, is imperative. Without proper representation, your rights may be ignored and your trial outcome bleak.