For a lot of people, it can feel as if the more they look at Alabama’s drug laws, the less they understand about them. And yet, to look at them in the law books, they seem unshakable and certain.

But you might avoid the big, upper limits of fines and jail time you could face using a calm approach and a wise strategy.

Possession, for example, can mean a lot of things

“Possession” crimes include just about the lowest- level drug crimes in Alabama. Selling drugs and especially trafficking drugs have much tougher potential consequences than possession.

Still, in the wrong situation, possession might result in very stiff punishments. For example, consider that possession of only drug paraphernalia like bongs or needles is a Class A misdemeanor and could, just maybe, bring as much as one year in prison and a fine of $6,000.

Possession of “harder” controlled substances like methamphetamine heroin and cocaine can carry a top sentence of 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine as a Class B felony.

In Alabama, the law says that possession is sometimes not just possession. For example, the police find you in possession of eight or more grams (up to 28 grams) of certain drugs, the law can automatically bump the charge to “possession with intent to sell.” That, too, can mean 20 years and $30,000.

Nothing is written in stone so you may as well stay calm

A lot of things can happen between the time the officer shines that bright flashlight in your eyes and the day of your sentencing. Try to do the right things, meaning those that will help you get out of this with the minimum punishment you can.

Most of all, it means staying calm if you can and relaxing as much as you can. They should let you make a phone call and you should either call your attorney or a responsible family member who will be able to locate a an attorney on your behalf.

There are a lot of exits on the road from arrest to prison

With a good defense, you can reduce all those scary numbers above to something not only more reasonable but also more likely. You and your attorney can work together to understand how to proceed.

For example, any errors or misdeeds in your arrest might make any charge against you a “non-starter.” These might include failing to read you your rights, certain kinds of violence or threats against you, making certain demands and searches before the officer has enough information, planting evidence, erasing evidence and many other wrong moves.

For another example, many situations around your arrest can cause the charges to be dismissed or minimized. You may have not understood what or who you were carrying, or you may have been in an extreme emotional state for good reasons. You may have had a reasonably clean criminal record so far. Or the police may be willing to trade a guilty plea for one charge for dismissing another.