Lawyers Blog

Searches and Seizures in Drug Cases

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. In drug cases, the legality of how evidence was obtained is frequently challenged. If the government violated the Constitution, the evidence cannot be used. Without the evidence to prove the charges, the State may have to dismiss its case.

The Fourth Amendment provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

In addition, similar provisions in each state’s constitution may afford even greater protections.

Warrants and the Protection of Privacy

Fourth Amendment protections apply to situations where persons have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as their home or personal communications, for instance. However, whether the expectation is “reasonable” is the key to whether it is protected by the Constitution. Reasonableness is context-specific. The court looks at an individual’s intention to keep something private and whether the expectation is one that society is willing to recognize as reasonable. Just as standards of privacy are constantly changing in society, Fourth Amendment law is also constantly evolving.

The government can intrude on such a zone of privacy only if the search or seizure is reasonable. Generally, a “reasonable” search or seizure is one supported by a warrant. The warrant itself has to be valid: It must be issued by a neutral judicial official, supported by probable cause and describe specifically the person or thing to be searched or seized. To establish “probable cause,” the law enforcement officer has to present facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime is being, or has been, committed.

Exceptions to the Warrant Requirement

The Supreme Court has recognized a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement. A warrantless search or seizure is still “reasonable” if there is probable cause and certain circumstances exist that make getting a warrant impractical or impossible. These exceptions include:

  • Search incident to arrest: searching a person after a lawful arrest to locate weapons and/or prevent the destruction of evidence
  • Consent: when an individual voluntarily waives his or her Fourth Amendment rights
  • Plain view: searching or seizing objects in plain view, if an officer has a legal right to be in that position where he or she is viewing the objects
  • Automobile exception: searching vehicles if an officer has probable cause to believe there is contraband inside and it would be moved before a warrant can be obtained
  • Exigent circumstances: when there is no opportunity to obtain a warrant due to an emergency situation, e.g., life is at risk

Besides these exceptions, law enforcement officers can conduct limited detentions and frisks without a warrant if they have an articulable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring.

Discuss Your Case with an Attorney

Analyzing whether a search or seizure was legal requires a close look at many factors. In a drug case, a successful challenge to evidence can mean the difference between a dismissal and a conviction.

Defending People Against Drug Charges for Over Two Decades

A charge for drug possession or trafficking can be a serious misdemeanor or even felony. For more than 20 years, I have represented individuals facing all types of drug charges, from possession to unlawful distribution, trafficking and manufacturing.

I work diligently toward the best possible solution for each client. If you are facing charges concerning marijuana, crack cocaine or crystal meth, you need an experienced lawyer on your side.

Competent and Understanding Legal Representation

I have handled many types of cases over the years, involving a variety of drug-related charges. I understand the difficulties confronting each client and I offer advice in each step of the process.

Even when it appears the case against you is solid, you still have a chance to work out a plea or get your charges dropped entirely. You have several options at your disposal, and I will employ every tool that I have as an advocate to get the best results possible in your case.

Alternative Options for Disposition

Alabama offers conditional alternative sentencing in some cases. In these cases, my clients have two years to complete a treatment program, after which their cases are dismissed. Individuals entering this program must complete treatment or be subject to a sentence of two years in prison.

I understand your options for alternative sentencing and I can recommend a treatment system for you. Your very freedom is at stake; I work with every client to ensure they receive the best chance for living productively as possible.

Contact my office today to schedule a consultation regarding your drug charges. I’ll work hard to preserve your rights.