Drug Crime Attorneys in Montana
Aggressive Criminal Defense Law Firm Dedicated to Protecting the Rights of Those Facing Narcotics Charges
With the recent legalization of marijuana in Montana, residents may think as though the state is taking a relaxed approach to the prosecution of non-violent drug offenses. However, that is not necessarily the case. In fact, due to the increasing number of opioid-related deaths, Montana prosecutors have actually taken a more aggressive approach to drug crimes. Even those charged with mere possession face the possibility of a jail sentence, in addition to the myriad other consequences that come along with a criminal conviction.
If you face drug charges in the Big Sky state, you need a Montana drug crime lawyer who not only knows the law but will also take your case as seriously as you do. At The Criminal Defense Firm, our veteran team of criminal defense attorneys enjoys a national reputation for providing clients with unparalleled representation at every stage of the process. From the moment you decide to bring The Criminal Defense Firm, onto your team, we will connect you with a senior trial attorney who will handle your case from beginning to end—No secretaries and no junior associates. Your attorney will be available day and night to answer your questions and address your concerns.
Montana Drug Laws
Drug possession, manufacturing, and distribution are illegal under federal and state law. Every state creates its own drug laws, as well as the punishments that a conviction carries. Like other states, Montana lawmakers break all controlled substances down into several schedules. Schedule I drugs are those that have no current medical use and present a very high risk of addiction. On the other end of the spectrum, Schedule V substances have a variety of medical uses and, while still potentially dangerous, pose much lower risks.
There are literally hundreds of drugs scheduled under Montana’s drug laws; however, below are some of the most common.
Schedule I: MDMA, heroin, LSD, and Quaaludes.
Schedule II: Adderall, PCP, cocaine, crack, morphine, and oxycontin.
Schedule III: Vicodin, GHB, anabolic steroids and some cough syrups containing codeine.
Schedule IV: Klonopin, Ambien, Xanax, and Valium.
Schedule V: Substances containing very small amounts of codeine, opium, and other narcotics.
Under Montana Code § 45-9-102, it is illegal to possess any “dangerous drug” without a prescription. State law considers any drug in schedules I through V to be a dangerous drug.
A conviction for simple possession carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in jail and a penalty of up to $5,000. However, Montana law is unique in that first-time offenders are “presumed to be entitled to a deferred imposition of sentence of imprisonment.” This means that if you do not have a prior drug conviction, the court will assume that a jail sentence is not appropriate. However, prosecutors may attempt to rebut this presumption if they believe that a jail sentence is appropriate.
If prosecutors have direct evidence that you sold a dangerous drug, you will face charges of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs. The punishment that comes along with a conviction for criminal distribution of dangerous drugs varies depending on the circumstances. For example, if you are found guilty of giving away or sharing a dangerous drug, you will face a maximum term of five years in jail and a fine of $5,000. However, if you sold the same drugs, a conviction carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail and a fine of up to $50,000. If the person you sold to was a minor, the punishment can reach as high as 40 years in jail. And finally, if you sold drugs to a person who overdosed and died, you could face up to 100 years in prison.
Notably, police do not need to witness a drug transaction to charge you with a felony drug crime. For example, if you are arrested with a significant amount of drugs, or you had drug-selling paraphernalia with you at the time of your arrest, prosecutors will argue that you possessed the drugs for sale. In Montana, this is referred to as criminal possession with the intent to distribute.
Under Montana Code § 45-9-103, a conviction for criminal possession with intent to distribute carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $50,000. Notably, there is no built-in leniency provision as there is for first-time offenders convicted of simple possession.
Given the significant sentences that come along with a Montana drug crime conviction, it is imperative that anyone facing such charges takes immediate action to protect their interests. At The Criminal Defense Firm, our Montana drug crime lawyers are ready to discuss your case and immediately get started creating a compelling defense to the charges you face.
Defenses to Montana Drug Crimes
Drug crimes have a reputation as being tough charges to beat. However, every skilled Montana criminal defense attorney knows that there are ample defenses to these crimes; it’s just a matter of coming up with the best one and aggressively pursuing it.
Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence
A motion to suppress is a pre-trial motion in which the defense argues that certain evidence should not be admitted into evidence because it was illegally obtained, usually in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. The most common ground for a motion to suppress in a Montana drug case is based on violation of your rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Montana equivalent, contained in Article II Section 11 of the Montana Constitution.
These two important provisions outline an individual’s right to be free from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” While search and seizure law is extraordinarily complex, essentially, police officers need either reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop and search you, your belongings, your car or your home. Absent this justification, an officer’s search is in violation of your constitutional rights, and any evidence obtained as a result must be suppressed.
The practical import of a motion to suppress is that if evidence is suppressed, the government is often left with no way to prove its case. Thus, a successful motion to suppress frequently results in the withdrawal of all charges.
Challenging the “Possession” Element
Before a judge or jury can convict you of any Montana drug crime, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you “possessed” the drugs in question. In some cases, this is straightforward; for example, if you were arrested with heroin in your jacket pocket. However, not all cases are this clear-cut. Say, for example, police officers search your home where you live with two roommates and find a large quantity of drugs in your living room. Did you possess the drugs? Did your roommates? Who’s to know? In this situation, prosecutors must present evidence suggesting that you knew the drugs were there and intended to exercise control over them. Challenging the possession element of a drug offense is particularly successful in cases where narcotics are recovered from a vehicle.
The “I Wasn’t Selling” Defense
In criminal possession with intent to distribute cases, the prosecution has no direct evidence of a drug sale. However, that is exactly what they are trying to prove. To do so, they will rely on circumstantial evidence that you possessed the drugs with the intent to sell them. For example, prosecutors may point to the following:
- You had an amount of drugs that was not consistent with personal use;
- You were arrested with unused baggies or a scale;
- You had a large number of small bills on you at the time of your arrest;
- You didn’t have any way to ingest the drugs; or
- You made a statement indicating your intent to sell the drugs.
However, a skilled Montana drug crime defense attorney can challenge these assumptions. For example, buying drugs in bulk doesn’t necessarily mean you intend to sell them; maybe you were just looking to get a bulk discount. At The Criminal Defense Firm, we’ve successfully called expert witnesses to challenge the government’s claim that our users possessed drugs with the intent to distribute them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I get probation for a Montana drug conviction?
Yes, it’s possible; however, it depends on the nature of the crime for which you are convicted as well as your prior record. Montana is unique among states in that state law calls for leniency to be given to first-time offenders convicted of a drug possession charge. Thus, if you have no prior drug convictions, and you are convicted of simple possession, there is a good chance you can avoid a jail sentence. However, Montana drug laws related to possession with intent to distribute and selling drugs contain no such provision. Thus, while it is still theoretically possible to secure a probationary sentence in these cases, it is no guarantee. A skilled Montana drug crime defense attorney at The Criminal Defense Firm can work with you to develop a compelling defense to avoid a conviction. And if a conviction is unavoidable, our attorneys will gather all mitigating evidence to explain why a jail sentence is not appropriate in your case.
Q: What should I look for in a Montana criminal defense attorney?
If you’ve been arrested for a Montana drug crime, the lawyer you choose to represent you may be one of the biggest decisions you make regarding your case. Certainly, there are dozens of criminal defense attorneys in Montana who are more than happy to take your case. However, it is important that you are selective. When interviewing lawyers, be sure to identify an attorney who has specific experience handling similar cases to the one you face. Many lawyers have “years of experience,” however, when pressed, they will tell you that much of their experience is unrelated to drug crimes—or even criminal law. At The Criminal Defense Firm, we are trial lawyers. Our attorneys are regularly in court, advocating on our client’s behalf. We don’t shy away from taking cases to trial because we know that’s often how we obtain the best results.
Q: Prosecutors offered me a deal. Should I take it?
While the decision to enter a guilty plea in exchange for an agreed-upon sentence is tempting, at The Criminal Defense Firm, we discourage our clients from taking a plea agreement early in the process. By approaching prosecutors asking for a deal, you give are essentially telling them that you are guilty and want to avoid the most serious consequences of a conviction. At The Criminal Defense Firm, our Montana drug defense lawyers prefer to conduct an in-depth investigation into the charges to determine which defenses may apply in a case. This way, we discover any holes in the government’s case, which we can use to leverage our bargaining power. Thus, if we end up re-approaching the bargaining table at a later time, we often do so with additional information, making a case for a much more favorable plea agreement.
Contact The Criminal Defense Firm, to Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Montana Drug Crime Lawyer
If you face drug charges, don’t take any chances when it comes to the lawyer you choose to represent you. At The Criminal Defense Firm, we have centuries of combined experience handling all types of drug charges. Several of our senior attorneys formerly worked in high-ranking positions with the federal government, including the FBI and DEA. We understand how the government approaches these cases and what it takes to successfully defend against the allegations you face. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give The Criminal Defense Firm a call at 866-603-4540. You can also connect with our attorneys through the firm’s online contact form.