While New York’s City’s cultural attitude toward recreational drug use is more accepting than other parts of the country or even the state, the drug laws on the books are still fairly strict. This is certainly true once the charges move outside of marijuana possession and into harder drugs like cocaine or heroin, or other powders and pill-form substances.

If you face drug possession charges for something harder than marijuana, then you should do everything you can to build a strong defense. These charges are nothing to take lightly. If you fail to properly defend yourself, you may receive much more than a slap on the wrist, legally speaking.

As you build your drug possession defense, you must consider all the legal tools that you have available. One of the most useful ways to place pressure on the prosecution is by demanding an independent laboratory test the evidence. This line of defense may offer several different opportunities to undermine the case against you.

Can the prosecution properly produce the evidence at all?

More often than you might expect, evidence goes missing (or, if the individuals handling evidence are not particularly interested in upholding the law, evidence may go “missing”). By demanding laboratory testing, you place pressure on the prosecution to produce the evidence against you, which means they must first physically locate it.

If the evidence gets lost in the storage process, or if the individuals handling it decide to keep it for their own reasons, then the prosecution cannot produce it in order to charge you. Very few courts are willing to hand down harsh sentencing if there is no physical evidence of a crime. In fact, you may get the charges dropped altogether.

Do the lab results match the charges?

Substance misidentification is also more common than you might imagine. From time to time, the news latches on to a story of a police officer arresting a suspect on possession charges because they mistake protein powder for cocaine, or something equally as foolish. What is truly surprising is how common this is, especially in circumstances where an officer is invested in finding something to generate charges on a suspect.

If the lab results are not consistent with the charges, then this weakens the prosecution’s case. It is also possible to challenge the methods and reliability of the lab testing, depending on the resources that you have available to build your defense.

Your future may depend heavily on the defense that you can create, because criminal convictions that involve hard drugs can cost a person thousands of dollars and even years of their freedom. Do not make the mistake of building a small defense against a large threat. Use the full strength of the law to protect your rights and priorities.