Georgia Southern QB Exonerated in Drug Possession Case
Redshirt junior Shai Werts may be in the Eagles backfield this season after all, since the “cocaine” officers claimed he had on his car was bird poop.
In July 2019, peace officers pulled Werts over for speeding. As they approached the car, they saw white, powdery residue on the car’s hood. Despite his repeated explanations that the substance was “bird [expletive],” the deputies field tested the substance twice for cocaine. A subsequent South Carolina Law Enforcement Division report revealed that the substance contained no traces of cocaine or anything else illegal. Werts, who had been suspended, returned to the team shortly after prosecutors dropped the cocaine possession charge.
Werts threw and ran for 25 touchdowns last season, as the Eagles capped a 10-3 season with a Camellia Bowl berth and a win over Eastern Michigan.
Evidence Issues in Drug Possession Cases
Police officers invariably state that substances “field tested positive” for cocaine, heroin, or another controlled substance. But this field test is usually not much more than a visual inspection. So, the test may suffice for probable cause for arrest, but it does not meet the higher evidence standard used in criminal court.
Subsequent scientific tests often yield much different results. That’s especially true if a Port St. Lucie criminal defense attorney requests independent tests. For this reason, attorneys often make such requests in drug possession cases, as well as DUI-blood test matters.
Moreover, the drugs or other evidence must be admissible in court. Since most officers do not have search warrants in possession cases, an applicable search warrant exception must allow officers to find and seize the drugs. Some common exceptions include:
- Plain View: Drugs on the hood of a vehicle are within plain view. Officers must have a legal right to be in that place at that time, which in the above story means that the traffic stop must have been lawful.
- Consent: Owners may give consent to search vehicles, dwelling, or other property, and individuals may consent to “empty your pockets” searches. Additionally, police officers may bully owners into consenting by threatening to get a warrant. But that’s usually an empty threat. If officers had probable cause for a warrant, they would probably not ask for voluntary consent.
- Search Incident to Arrest: Before 2009, this exception was probably the most widely-used one. But the Supreme Court limited these searches to weapons pat-downs, so today, this exception barely makes the top three.
Other search warrant exceptions include exigent circumstances and automobile searches. If officers believe that someone is in trouble, they may enter places without warrants to make sure everyone is okay. And, if officers have probable cause to believe there is evidence hidden in a car, they may search it.
Resolving Drug Possession Charges in St. Lucie County
Simple possession cases account for over 80 percent of all the criminal drug matters in Florida. That extremely high volume usually gives prosecutors incentive to negotiate favorable pretrial agreements and dispose of these cases quickly.
Drug possession defendants are normally eligible for pretrial diversion. That’s especially true if the defendant voluntarily seeks help for a substance abuse problem. If the defendant performs community service and completes other program requirements, prosecutors normally dismiss the charges.
If the case goes further, the aforementioned evidentiary issues often come into play. Furthermore, prosecutors must establish all three elements of possession (proximity, control, and knowledge) beyond any reasonable doubt. Many times, there is not enough evidence to meet this burden.
Rely on a Dedicated Lawyer
A successful resolution is usually possible in drug possession matters. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie criminal lawyer, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.