DC Drug Arrests

After being arrested for drug charges in DC, the process that follows can be extensive. An individual will be subject to various procedures such as questioning, fingerprinting, being held overnight, and any other steps police find necessary. The DC drug arrest process requires an experienced DC drug attorney who knows how to handle drug cases in DC and can assist in preparing the best defense for their client.

Arrest Procedure

When a DC police officer arrests an individual and charges them with possession of a drug for personal use, unless that individual is already on probation, supervised release, or has another pending case, they are almost always given a citation. This is similar to a ticket that tells them to come to DC Superior Court at a specific time and date to begin their case, it is called a citation release. The individual appears at their first court date, called an arraignment, and finds out if the US Attorney’s Office has filed charges against them. If so, what those charges are. If the person does not already have an attorney, the court can assign one for them for at least that initial hearing. The court determines if the person qualifies for free counsel and then the case begins from there.

On the other hand, in a case where someone is arrested by a police officer who believes they were involved in drug distribution or possession with the intent to distribute drugs, the charge is a felony. Law enforcement officers take the arrested person to appear in front of a judge who makes the decision whether that person is to be released from custody. Instead of giving them a citation directing them to come to court in a couple weeks, the police hold them in custody and bring them to the courthouse to appear in front of the judge within one or two business days. That is subject to the court’s calendar and the time frame involved for the judge to make a determination.

The police arrest the person and take them back to the police station. The officers take the person’s fingerprints and picture, and get their basic identifying information: date of birth, address, social security number, and so forth. The person is either released from the police station with the citation time and date to appear in court, or the police take the person to court to have a judge determine if they can be released.

Aggravating Factors During an Arrest

One of the big factors that impacts whether a law enforcement officer makes an arrest for a DC drug offense is when the individual is believed to be involved in a drug trafficking conspiracy. In a situation where there is probable cause to make an arrest against one person, and there is some evidence suggesting that the person is involved in a larger conspiracy, the police, in coordination with prosecutors, may decide to not go forward with an arrest and charging of that one specific individual. They may choose to wait until they can gather evidence that connects as many of the drug conspirators as possible. Sometimes that involves extensive investigation using wiretaps, search warrants, surveillance, and other tactics.

Conversely, if an individual is believed to be an immediate danger to the community, the police most likely do not want to wait to gather more evidence before making the arrest. In other words, if they believe the individual is armed and involved in violent behavior, they may immediately proceed with an arrest in DC and processing towards charging them. They do not want to take the chance that the time it takes to gather more information might result in further violent conduct by that individual.

Quantity of Drugs

Quantity is one of the major factors that law enforcement and prosecutors consider when deciding whether or not to charge a person with possession of a drug for personal use versus possession of drugs with the intent to distribute to others. A large quantity of drugs or a quantity of a drug separated into different packages gives a strong indication that the drugs were not just for the personal use of the individual who was arrested. In that situation, the amount of drugs can determine the charges brought. When the authorities bring charges for possession with intent to distribute, the police continue to hold the individual until they appear in court, rather than releasing them with a citation.

Individuals at the Scene of an Arrest

Everyone around a situation or a scene where drugs are involved, at least for the immediate moment, is a potential suspect until the police are able to make their decision as to who was involved and who was not involved. The police want to talk to everyone, get as much information as they can, and gather as much evidence as they can. When there are multiple people in a car where drugs are found or there are multiple people present at a house where a search warrant is being executed and drugs are found, the police want to conduct their investigation while everyone is present to determine who should be arrested, who should not, who was involved and who was not.

For example, say the police execute a search warrant in a home where they believe the owner is conducting drug activities. There are multiple people sitting around the table watching television. The police search the owner’s bedroom and find a quantity of drugs, but there are no drugs being used by the people present. There are no drugs out in the common area. There does not appear to be any link between those present and any kind of drug use or drug distribution. In that situation, those people could expect to be released after the police gather their information.