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STEPHEN IORNS
Phone: +64 4 974 9121
Email: stephen@iornslegal.co.nz
RODERICK MULGAN
Phone: +64 4 974 9089
Email: mulgan@iornslegal.co.nz
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Drugs Charges - Why you need a good lawyer fast

September 16, 2014

We deal with people who have been caught up with drugs on a very regular basis. Whether the involvement arose because of drug use, possession, supply or cultivation (or manufacture) things can get quite serious quite quickly.

 

Generally speaking, the cases we see fall in to three scenarios:

 

  1. following a police investigation, and the execution of a search warrant, evidence has been uncovered suggesting involvement with the cultivation / manufacture, or supply of drugs;

  2. during an arrest for some other reasons, police have located a quantity of drugs, or

  3. the police have smelt cannabis, or seen something, that gives them a right to undertake a warrantless search, which turned up drugs.

 

Most of the time, these cases at first appear open and shut. However, there a many avenues to defend drug charges that arise because of the strict rules the police have to comply with when searching a citizen or their private property. This is essentially because Section 21 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 states that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property, or correspondence or otherwise.” Where this guarantee has been breached, there’s a possibility that the evidence obtained as a result of the search can be excluded under Section 30 of the Evidence Act 2006.

 

Even if the search was completely reasonable and lawful, there remain a range of other potential defences. For example, if there is reasonable doubt as to whose drugs they were (if they were in the footwell of a car, or the common area of a flat, for example) there may be a strong chance of acquittal. There may be cause to suspect that you did not actually have what they thought you possessed – we’ve seen charges for possession of A-Class be dropped to possession of C-Class following forensic analysis of the pills…

 

If there is no defence, you may have the option of seeking a discharge without conviction.

 

We have had a countless clients facing drugs charges come to us with what they thought was a hopeless case, only to leave Court with no conviction. Here are some examples:

 

Example One:

 

An up and coming DJ approached us having been charged with possession of A-Class drugs for supply. The only reason he was charged with supply was because he had a rather large bag of pills on his person. He thought they were a particular drug, that is considered A-Class under our laws. He co-operated with the police during their search, made a statement, and appeared in Court.

We immediately asked the police to have the substance analysed, as our client had not actually tried any of them – he may have been sold a fake. In fact, he was. The results came back as a B-Class drug, and we convinced the Court to accept he was not a supplier. With the greatly reduced charge, we entered a guilty plea and sought an adjournment for our client to undertake a round of drug counselling. Following successful completion, a discharge without conviction was successfully applied for.

 

Example two:

 

A young woman in her early twenties approached us distraught that she had been charged with possession of cannabis. She lived in a sleepout at her parent’s address, paid rent, and was in full time employment. After a dispute with one of her parents, she left for work and the Police were called. The parents gave authority to search her room, and the Police found a small amount of cannabis in her bedside drawer.

 

After a successful argument that the parents of a woman in her twenties could not consent to have her bedside drawer searched in these circumstances (where she was in a detached dwelling and paying rent) the evidence was excluded and our client acquitted.   

 

Example three:

 

We were contacted by a client who had been caught growing around forty cannabis plants in his garage. The Police had obtained an anonymous tip, and had obtained a search warrant to enter his address. Our client was co-operative throughout, and sought legal advice as soon as he was taken to the station. He asked for Stephen by name, but the police did not / would not find our details, so, he was given a list of free lawyers to call. Luckily, he got a good one who advised him to make no further statement.

 

At first, it appeared as if this was an open and shut case. The client had been caught in the act – but, he asked that we look at all avenues for defence. We had to seek further information from the police. They refused, and we got suspicious. We applied to the Court for a disclosure Order forcing their hand. When they supplied all of the information, it turned out that their application for a search warrant was completely baseless, and contained a few whopping errors. The Police elected to call no evidence when this was pointed out, and our client walked.

 

Example four:

 

A client contacted us having been charged with being a party to the supply of methamphetamine, and conspiracy to supply the same. The party to supply charge carried life imprisonment. A long story short, a plea-bargain saw the party to supply charge dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to the lessor charge of conspiracy to supply (which still carried a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment). We had our client undertake voluntary community work between entering a plea and date of sentence, and obtained a large volume of references. We then convinced the Court to grant a discharge without conviction, due to the circumstances of that particular client, and the consequences of a conviction on her.

 

Of course, not all clients can walk. We advise all of our clients that come to us with drug charges to undertake drug counselling immediately, to both ensure they don’t come back and have them in the best possible position come date of sentence. We explore all sentencing options, and look at how to have them leave the process with the least restrictive sentence possible. We had a client charged with growing around fourteen pounds of cannabis leave Court with a short burst of community work a few weeks back. If you have no defence, that does not necessarily mean you are going to prison. If there’s a way to avoid it, we will find it.

 

On the other hand, you could try your luck with the duty solicitor… If you or a loved one is facing drug charges, don’t risk it. Get a good lawyer today.

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