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Search & Seizure Laws Regarding Drug Crime Charges

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution clearly states that people cannot be subjected to unfair searches and seizures of their property, whether that be within their home, their vehicle, or on in their purse or pockets. It is further interpreted to mean that any evidence that is collected through an unjust search and seizure is inadmissible in the court of law. Since drug charges are usually mostly dependent on what was found during a police raid or drug bust, does the Fourth Amendment even apply at all to these cases?

The key word within the legal statute is “unreasonable.” No one can be subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure, which is a word that is open to interpretation. What might be unreasonable to you could be perfectly reasonable from the perspective of the police, especially if they know they need the evidence they took from under your bed to land a conviction.

Defining & Interpreting the Unreasonable

Legalities involving searches and seizures for drug busts are not completely vague, though. There are statutes that define what must be fulfilled or present in order for the search to take place.

In general, one or more of the following conditions must be met in order for a search to take place:

  • Warrant: The moment a judge signs a search warrant, the most in-depth investigation of your property is allowed. Contesting a search warrant is possible, of course, but notoriously difficult.
  • Danger: Police or investigators that believe they are in immediate danger can detain an individual and search the surroundings for weapons. This is very subjective. A person might reach to scratch the back of their neck and an officer could interpret it as them reaching for a weapon in hiding, essentially allowing them to cite “danger” whenever they want to conduct an impromptu search and seizure of evidence.
  • Destruction: Some evidence is fragile and easily destroyed. If the police think you are going to eliminate or tamper with the evidence of a crime that recently occurred, they can conduct a warrantless search of the area they believe pertains to the criminal act.
  • Plain sight: If an officer sees an illegal item, such as a drug or drug paraphernalia, in plain sight, they can conduct a full search of the area for additional evidence. You do not even need to be originally detained for this to happen. For example, you could be pulled over for a missing taillight and wind up arrested for drug possession if the police officer sees a bag of cocaine sitting atop the passenger seat.

Do you believe you were arrested due to an unjust search and seizure in Rhode Island? Could proving so remove the only evidence the prosecution has against you? It is time for you to contact Providence Criminal Defense Attorney Jason Knight and our law firm. We provide free case evaluations so do not hesitate to start your defense now.