Does a drug bust automatically lead to jail time?

In recent news, you may have read about a major bust in nearby Steubenville, Ohio, that led to the arrest of a man. Police allegedly discovered large amounts of suspected drugs including over 100 grams of heroin and 75 grams of crack cocaine, in addition to marijuana, pills, cash and guns.

While some might think that the evidence collected by investigators indicates clear guilt, our criminal justice system doesn't quite work like that. You’ve likely heard the phrase, “innocent until proven guilty,” and the presumption of innocence must remain even when evidence seems overwhelming. In a case like this, there are many intricate variables that could affect whether he faces a conviction or if the charges get dropped or dismissed.

For starters, there is a strict process in place that the police must adhere to before making an arrest and seizing property from an alleged suspect. Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are required in order to request a search warrant; and even then, a warrant must be secured before investigators can enter a property and seize alleged evidence. Failing to follow these steps can end in the violation of a defendant's civil rights, which can then lead to the dismissal of charges or an entire case.

Whether police misconduct was a factor in this case or not remains to be seen. But what we do know is that the defendant could face incredibly serious penalties if convicted. Of course, any drug charge can come with serious consequences. In this specific instance, the suspect could face state and federal drug charges that escalate depending on the amount of alleged drugs found during an investigation. This increases the severity of the potential prison sentence if the suspect is convicted. Here in West Virginia, state laws regarding drug trafficking could lead to up to 15 years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines.

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