Experienced Drug Crime Defense Lawyer Serving Somerset, PA

Strong representation for clients charged with possession or trafficking

Pennsylvania is adamant about stopping the flow of illegal drugs into and through the state along the Somerset Turnpike and other major roadways. Many of my clients at Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law are stopped along the turnpike by alert highway patrol officers who are on the hunt for drivers carrying illegal drugs.

For more than 15 years, I have defended people in Somerset and surrounding areas who’ve been stopped by police and charged with possessing drugs including:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Crystal meth
  • Prescription drugs without a prescription

If you’ve been stopped by police and charged with drug possession, you could face stiff fines or a lengthy jail sentence or both. Typically, there are mandatory minimum sentences that vary according to the type of drug found in your possession.

Vigorous defense to charges of possession, distribution and trafficking in drugs

As with any other crime, there are elements the prosecution must prove to get a conviction for a drug offense. Here are some major points the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • “Knowing” possession — The accused must know he has the drugs in his possession. This includes knowing what the substance is and that the substance is illegal. If someone stashes his drugs in your car without your knowledge, you are not technically in possession even while driving your car.
  • “Constructive” possession — The accused must be in control of the drugs. If you share an apartment with someone and he stashes drugs under the kitchen sink, and says “If you touch that bag, I’ll kill you,” you do not control the drugs, so they are not in your possession even if you know they are there.
  • Intent to sell — Charges of distribution and trafficking require an additional element of intent. Prosecutors rarely get confessions of intent, so they often rely on stings where they stage a sale. However, in many cases, authorities build a circumstantial case based on additional facts: quantities of the drug beyond what is usual for personal use and the presence of other items (scales to weigh drugs, baggies, handguns for protection, large amounts of cash) associated with the drug trade.

Arresting officers and prosecutors want to give the impression that your case is a slam dunk and that the only way you can help yourself is to cooperate with them. Unfortunately, such cooperation has the opposite effect of helping them prove a case they had insufficient evidence to prosecute. Before answering questions or making any statements to police or prosecutors, speak with a knowledgeable defense attorney. Your words could come back to haunt you.

No-nonsense drug offense attorney asserts your constitutional rights

Many drug arrests result from questionable police stops, searches and seizures. Fortunately, if the police obtained evidence in a manner that violated your constitutional rights, that evidence is inadmissible in court. I aggressively challenge police procedures by forcing them to prove:

  • Reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop — Police cannot pull vehicles over for no reason or for an illegal reason, such as racial profiling. Unless there was a discernible problem with the vehicle (such as a blown taillight) or your driving, the stop is unlawful and so is any subsequent search.
  • Reasonable suspicion for a stop and frisk — The same rules apply for pedestrians as motorists: if you are not doing anything wrong, the police cannot stop you and pat you down just to see what they might find.
  • Probable cause for a search warrant — If the police want to search your vehicle or your home, they must get a warrant from a judge, which requires them to declare facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude a crime might have been committed. Flimsy facts or outright lies cannot be the basis for a warrant.
  • Exigency for a search — Police can make a warrantless search if probable cause exists and there is danger to a person or the risk of evidence being destroyed. Officers cannot make a warrantless search simply because getting a warrant is inconvenient.
  • Plain-view exception to the warrant requirement — If an illegal substance is in plain view, an officer is allowed to seize the substance without a warrant. However, police are not allowed to trespass or break and enter to get a plain view of an illegal substance.

If the facts do not support a motion to exclude evidence, I can often negotiate a reduction or dismissal of charges based on such facts as:

  • An insufficient drug amount
  • No evidence of intent to use or distribute
  • A prescription from a licensed medical doctor
  • No prior record

I have defended clients in Somerset, Bedford, Cambria and Indiana counties. Each client and case is different, but there is one constant: prosecutors are as aggressive as the facts and your criminal defense counsel allow them to be. For this reason, you need a lawyer who has both the skill and experience to defend your rights and negotiate your freedom.

Contact an aggressive PA attorney if you’ve been charged with a drug crime

Drug charges can rob you of your freedom and destroy your reputation. If you’ve been arrested in the Somerset area, you need a skilled defense attorney fighting on your side. Call Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law today at 814-483-7075 or contact me online to schedule a consultation.