Drug Crimes

Drug charges can range from simple possession to interstate trafficking. At Burke Law we are experienced in both misdemeanor and felony drug crime defense. It is important to not make any statements to law enforcement about what any substance found in your vehicle, home, or on your person is.

Expert testing may be required for the state to move forward with drug charges against you. The attorneys at Burke Law know how to defend drug charges and can guide you through the process to get you the best possible outcome for your drug charges.

Drug charges may be brought in Vermont State or Federal Court in the District of Vermont.

At Burke Law, we guide you through every stage of the criminal process. From arraignment to disposition, our criminal defense attorneys identify the strengths of your case and zealously advocate on your behalf. If you are charged with a crime it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.


Vermont Drug Crime Convictions: What You Should Know


I possessed mushrooms/ecstasy/cocaine/LSD in my dorm room and they were seized by campus security. Can I be charged with a crime?

Yes. You could face penalties at your university or college and criminal drug charges in the state of Vermont. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible if your dorm room was raided or searched and you believe that illegal or controlled substances could be determined to have been in your possession.

I was driving through Vermont and was stopped for a motor vehicle offense. Vermont law enforcement searched the vehicle and located drugs. I am charged with possessing (or trafficking drugs) but I did not know they were in the vehicle. What should I do?

You should contact a Vermont attorney as soon as possible to begin your defense of any charged drug crimes. If there were other people in the vehicle or other peoples’ belongings in the vehicle and the drugs were found in those bags or belongings it may be difficult for the State of Vermont to prove that you were aware of the drugs in the vehicle or knowingly possessed or trafficked the drugs. The attorneys at Burke Law have successfully defended numerous Vermont drug crimes.

Are possession of drug crimes in Vermont misdemeanors or felonies?

In Vermont, many drug possession crimes can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Factors that may be used by the Vermont prosecutors to determine whether you will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony include: the amount of the drugs in your possession and whether or not the drugs were packaged for sale or personal use.


Criminal Defense – FAQ


I’ve been given a citation to criminal court. What do I do next?

You should contact an attorney for an explanation of your citation and any additional paperwork you received from law enforcement.

If you are charged with a DUI in Vermont it is exceptionally important to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

If you were issued a Notice of Intent to Suspend as part of your DUI then your driver’s license or privilege to operate may automatically go under suspension if you do not request a hearing within SEVEN days after your arrest.

The attorneys at Burke Law can explain what your criminal charge(s) and how to respond to any necessary paperwork to protect your license.

Burke Law advertises free consultations. What are these? How do I prepare?

Burke Law offers free 30 minute case consultations. These consultations can occur either over the phone or at either of our Vermont office locations (Burlington or White River Junction) at the choice of the client. It is useful to provide the attorney with any paperwork that you received from law enforcement at or prior to the consult. This will help us give you the most accurate information about your case. You and the attorney will discuss the allegations and sketch out a defense strategy.

What will happen at the first court date?

The first court date is your arraignment. An arraignment is a constitutional right that a defendant has to be told what his or her charge or charges are in open court. It is an opportunity to learn exactly what crime or crimes the prosecution alleges you committed and what facts may constitute those charges. At the arraignment your attorney will enter a plea on your behalf. Traditionally, the initial plea is a not guilty plea. The purpose of this plea to to keep the case moving forward so that your attorney can craft an individualized defense strategy and obtain any necessary evidence in your favor.

How many times will I have to go to court?

It depends. For simple misdemeanor cases you may never need to go to court. For example, if you live out of state or are otherwise unavailable for work or school reasons your attorney may be able to waive your appearance at your arraignment and all subsequent court hearings. Other times it may be necessary for you to appear five or more times to successfully defend your case. The attorneys at Burke Law can provide an estimate of the number of appearances required during your free consultation.

Why should I choose Burke Law?

At Burke Law we practice criminal defense throughout Vermont. It is what we do. All three of our attorneys have extensive criminal defense practice experience throughout Vermont. We work for you to craft individualized, strategic defenses to provide you with the best possible outcomes. Burke Law is unique because our attorneys have deep local experience. Our Founding Attorney, Jessica Burke, works daily in Chittenden criminal court and throughout the state on serious felony matters. She has practiced in all 14 Vermont counties and has successfully defended misdemeanors and felonies throughout the state of Vermont. Attorney Leah Henderson focuses her practice in central and southern Vermont criminal courts. Attorney Henderson has successfully defended hundreds of misdemeanor and felony cases in Windsor, Rutland, Windham, Bennington, Caledonia and Orange counties. Attorney Zachery Weight formerly worked as a public defender in Orleans criminal court and earned a reputation as a fierce trial attorney. Since joining Burke Law, Attorney Weight has focused his practice on criminal defense in Franklin, Washington, Addison, Grand Isle, Orleans, Lamoille, and Essex counties. 

Burke Law was built on criminal defense. Founding Attorney Jessica Burke practiced as a public defender in urban Virginia where she tried cases ranging from disorderly conduct to felony murder to a jury. After relocating home to Vermont, Attorney Burke started Burke Law in 2011 and defended misdemeanor and felony charges for clients in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Both Attorney Henderson and Attorney Weight began their careers in public defense in Vermont. Burke Law remains committed to values of public defense and all of our attorneys take low bono and pro bono cases as our schedules allow. 

At Burke Law open, honest and continued dialog with our clients is vital to building a strong defense and providing our clients with the best options available. 

Our attorneys have successfully defended thousands of cases throughout Vermont. Each case is unique. Our substantial experience in criminal defense throughout Vermont will help you get the best outcome possible for your case.

What happens at an arraignment?

The purpose of an arraignment is to tell a defendant what they are charged with and why they are charged with it.

Arraignments Tell You What Your Charge(s) Is.

The fundamental purpose of an arraignment is to tell a defendant, in open court, what they are charged with. In other words, arraignments tell a Vermont defendant what law it is alleged that a defendant has broken.

Arraignments Tell You What Evidence The State Intends to Use Against You. 

An arraignment tells a defendant and her attorney why she is charged with the crime she is charged with. In other words, the State must disclose what facts it believes support the accusation that you committed the crime.

Arraignments Begin the Criminal Process In Vermont 

Typically an arraignment is just the beginning of the criminal process. The State presents a broad outline of the facts it believes it can establish to support a conviction of the crime charged. An experienced Vermont criminal defense attorney can develop a defense strategy to respond to the allegations made by the State prosecutor at an arraignment. 

Can I use self defense to protect myself from a criminal charge?

I was attacked by the complaining witness in a Vermont assault case, can I use self defense to protect myself?

Vermont law surrounding self defense in assault cases is complex. It is often used when someone is attacked in their home, or even in public, and then the victim attacks back at the aggressor. The aggressor may be more injured than the victim, which could result in the victim being charged with a crime. There are a variety of situations in which the defense can be used. 

Self defense is what is called an affirmative defense, meaning that it is a type of criminal defense that usually needs to be asserted once your case is already charged and there are certain threshold showings you must make to present it to a jury. The Vermont Model Jury Instructions provide a basic framework of what a defendant must show at a jury trial.  

Steps You Can Take To Help Your Self Defense Case

There are ways to help your self defense case (such as taking pictures of your injuries when they are fresh and seeking appropriate medical treatment for yourself). If there are any witnesses to you using self defense in a Vermont assault case, it may be helpful to have them give sworn statements. Working with an experienced Vermont criminal defense attorney as soon as soon as possible is a good idea in these types of cases. 

It is important to call an attorney right away to help you prepare your self defense case for assault charges in Vermont. 

What if an alleged victim is contacting me?

I was cited to court in Vermont for an assault and released on a condition that I have no contact with the alleged victim. The alleged victim of the assault is contacting me. Can I speak to the alleged victim of the assault if he or she is contacting me?

No. Absolutely not.  If you have a no contact condition it is a violation of your conditions of release for the pending assault – no matter which party initiates the contact. Violating your conditions of release in Vermont can result in new criminal charges or even being held in jail until your court date. For reference, the standard condition of release court form can be found here.

Are you saying that it doesn’t matter to the Court at all that it was the alleged victim who was contacting me?

Yes. It does not matter that the victim contacts you. You cannot have contact because you are subject to the no contact condition of release. If the alleged victim contacts you, hang up the phone. If the alleged victim approaches you, walk away. You can help your criminal defense by documenting any instances when an alleged victim contacts you after a no contact condition of release is imposed by writing down the time, place and manner of the attempted contact with you by the alleged victim.

Can a third party contact the person who I am not to have contact with to relay a message?

No. No contact means no direct contact, no phone contact, no electronic contact, and no contact through third parties.

If you are subject to a no contact order in Vermont criminal court and the person keeps attempting to initiate contact with you, let your attorney know right away.

Contact Burke Law for A Free Case Consultation

If you have been charged with a crime, or if you have not been formally charged with crime but are party to an ongoing investigation, contact us to ensure that your rights are protected from the earliest stages of the process. We offer free consultations and will work with you to find a time that accommodates your schedule.