It is obvious that the drug problem is escalating in our society today. Many dynamics present in our society have created a convenient environment for drug trafficking, drug production and consumption. To deal with this problem, laws have been instituted to mitigate this issue. These laws apply within our constitutional framework that among other things accords everyone’s liberty rights. These laws consider the type of substance that has been abused, the committed offense and strive to accord the defendant justice. Apart from the issues mentioned above, this paper examines the role and importance of forensic evidence in drug cases.
A problem that has been increasing at an enormous magnitude in our society today is drug abuse. To mitigate this trend and promote the wellbeing of society, comprehensive laws relating to drug abuse that are in agreement with our constitution have been developed. In this endeavor, care has been taken to respect the civil rights of all citizens as well as ensure that those guilty of engaging in this crime are punished.
Ambiguity has been eluded by specifying what narcotic drugs are, a clear framework for collection and presentation of evidence has been adopted and measures have been adopted to ensure that players, handlers and distributors of these drugs as well as consumers of narcotic drugs are appropriately taken to be guilty of breaking the law. To charge and sentence such offenders, significant use of forensics is applied. This involves the use of methods of science to gather appropriate evidence that can be used against the defendants.
What are narcotic drugs? Scientists understand drugs as substances that alter the behavior pattern of an individual when consumed. These may be extracted from natural organic things like marijuana plants or be synthetically manufactured in the laboratory like sedatives (Controlled Substance Act, 2010). The law distinguishes narcotics from other drugs. Narcotics are defined as substances which when consumed act to stimulate an individual’s sensing capacity or act to dull the same. When these are used repeatedly, they cause a person to become addicted to them (Controlled Substance Act). Narcotic drugs can only be used legally following a prescription by a qualified physician (Controlled Substance Act). Indeed many people undergo medications that necessitate the use of narcotics.
Apart from identifying narcotics, US laws go further to classify these drugs. These have been grouped into five schedules. The general parameters that are used to classify narcotics here include the risk of dependency, level of abuse and known medicinal utility. You will find the following narcotics in schedule I: Marijuana, Heroine and hallucinogens. Schedule I is considered to consist of those drugs that have the most catastrophic effect on an individual by greatly altering his/her mental, physiological and general wellbeing when compared to other narcotics (Drugs and narcotics, 2010). Apart from having no apparent medicinal usage, these narcotics are highly abused. They pose the greatest danger to the user (Drugs and narcotics).
Moving on to schedule II, drugs categorized here include Opium, Cocaine, Morphine, Methamphetamine, Coca and Methadone (Keel, 2009). Like those in schedule one, they are highly abused (Keel). However, substances in this category can be used by physicians in medicine. They are also very addictive leading to a high level of dependence on the user (Keel). Narcotics considered to have an effect of average risk of dependence on the user can be used in medicine and are abused on a lower level are generally grouped in schedule III. Examples include drugs like Amphetamine, Valium, Codeine and anabolic steroids (Keel).
Schedule IV narcotics are abused on a limited level, are highly used in medicine by physicians and have a limited risk of dependency on the user (Keel, 2009). Phenobarbital, Chloral hydrate and Paraldehyde are found in this group. On the other hand, as it can be expected, schedule V drugs have the lowest risk of dependency, are highly used in medicine. Their level of abuse is low. Their effect on the user is of minor effects. These normally consist of substances above mixed in small quantities (Keel).
To provide adequate evidence for the prosecution, forensics is often applied. The aim is to provide evidence that the defendant has done one or more of the following: possession of narcotic substances, production, and distribution as well (Saferstein, 2007). Laboratory tests are widely employed to identify the presence and type of narcotic substances which forms the basis for prosecution in the first place (Saferstein).
Since the schedules discussed above determine the defendant’s sentence, laboratory tests help to categorize narcotics into appropriate schedules. While possession of narcotic substances leads to a minimum sentence in a crime involving narcotics, trafficking of narcotic substances leads to maximum sentencing (Drugs and narcotics, 2010). Having narcotic substances with an intention of selling on the other hand is a moderate crime involving narcotics. The forensics that is required therefore needs to prove at least one of the above.
As has been mentioned above, drug analysis is important in determining the amount, presence, and proportion of narcotic substances on examining a sample for grouping into the appropriate schedule. This in turn determines sentencing, whose severity depends on the schedule in possession (Drugs and narcotics, 2010). Effective war on drugs needs to net all the culprits involved including those in the chain of distribution and production (drugs and narcotics).
This explains the importance of scrutinizing the distribution and custody chain in a drug case. Even more importantly as pertains to civil rights, the accused is accorded a chance to defend him/her. It is possible for example for someone to have substances without knowledge as has been the case where cunning drug barons move their drugs around discreetly by exploiting any avenue available, including ignorance on one’s part (Drugs and narcotics 2010).
To prosecute offenders, there is a great need for evidence preservation. Many culprits have and will escape prosecution for example by arguing in court that their liberal right of privacy was trudged upon (Hall, 2009). The prosecutor, therefore, needs to follow legal procedures in obtaining evidence so that it is of weight during prosecution. Preserving evidence also involves presenting the actual physical evidence linking the accused to the crime. This includes finger prints, substances, and threads among others (Hall 2009).
Drug crimes have been so much embedded into our society dynamics that they often complicate the whole process of prosecuting culprits. While major institutions and offices have been watered down by greed, cunning and powerful drug dealers, our liberal rights are utmost guarded in our current society. Besides, our society has turned to drugs amid life pressures, effective marketing of substances especially through peer pressure among other stimulants. While law enforcers will continue playing a difficult role that threatens their well being, the war on drugs has been hardly successful enough. Maybe, our current society dynamics cannot just allow this to happen.
Controlled Substance Act. (2010). Drug schedules. Web.
Drugs and narcotics (2010). Classification of narcotics. New York: Thompson gale.
Hall, E.D. (2009). Searches and seizures. Criminal law and procedure (pp. 348-380). New York: Delmar.
Keel, O.R. (2010) Drug classification: Legal classification. Web.
Saferstein, R. (2007). Substances. Criminalistics (pp. 15-80). New Jersey: Pearson Education.