The first thing my office or I’m going to do in defending a possession of drugs case is to review how the officer made contact with the client because citizens have rights to be free from search and seizure from police officers. We look at things such as if the search was made consensually or if it was done through a traffic stop. We will then review if the officer had reasonable suspicion that the person was committing a crime or if the officer had probable cause to actually make an arrest?
We always investigate those things because if the officer does not have reasonable suspicion and/or lacked probable cause to make an arrest, and we can prove that, then all the evidence gained after that illegal stop is going to get thrown out.
We will also look at how the search was done. Searches are not supposed to be done without warrants, but there are exceptions to that. For example, one exception is called plain view. If an officer sees illegal drugs in plain view, he does not need a warrant before he searches as he can see the drugs right there. Another exception is exigency, which is if an officer can prove that exigent nature, meaning there’s a chance that the evidence is going to get destroyed if he doesn’t go in there quickly.
All of these exceptions have a lot of rules and laws, and a good defense lawyer will do everything to show that the arrest or the search was done unlawfully so evidence can be thrown out.
Drug possession cases comes in all forms. They can come from a traffic stop, which may begin with a DUI, leading to a pat down and finding drugs in the pocket. They can come from questioning at done at someone’s home or search of a home. They can even come from a mere contact on the street. That is why it take experience and knowledge of search and seizure laws to defend somebody’s rights.
If an officer contacts you and it is clear that you are the subject of an investigation, the first general advice is do not answer any questions until you can talk to a lawyer. The second piece of advice is if an officer asks to search your vehicle, your person, your home, your backpack or any container you have, tell them no and that you do not give them permission to search without a warrant. These are the things that can protect you. Even if an officer gets a warrant to try to search these items in the future, that warrant can still be challenged for validity. I always advise people to exercise their Constitutional rights to remain silent and refusing a search.
For instance, if an officer says to you, “I’m going to search you now,” and you say, “I do not wish to be searched unless you have a warrant,” and they still do it, you’re in a better position than if you said nothing or if you said, “Okay.” This is because the greatest exception to a warrantless search is consent. When somebody consents to an officer to perform a search they are giving up their Constitutional rights.