Drug Charges and the Fourth Amendment

Drug Charges and the Fourth Amendment

A major legal issue that arises frequently with drug charges is whether law enforcement engaged in lawful search and seizure.  The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits law enforcement from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures.  This means that individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and police officers who do not have a search warrant can only intrude upon that privacy under certain very narrow circumstances.

Fourth Amendment Protections

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable government searches and seizures of their persons, houses, papers, and effects. The Fourth Amendment also requires that “no warrants shall be issued but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.”  Controlled substance charges typically raise search and seizure concerns because, eventually officers will conduct an investigation leading to an inevitable invasion of the suspect’s privacy in order to locate and take possession of the alleged drugs.

Exceptions to the search warrant requirement

There are several exceptions to the warrantless search and seizure rules that have been carved out by federal law.  These exceptions to the Fourth Amendment include the following:

  • exigent circumstances
  • search incidental to a lawful arrest
  • consent
  • plain view
  • caretaker function
  • inventory/impounded vehicles
  • motor vehicle

Other potential Fourth Amendment Violations

There are more ways that the government can violate a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights besides conducting an improper search. For example, an unjustified traffic stop that leads to the discovery of controlled substances, may be a violation.  Also, if a police officer makes false statements in order to obtain a warrant, or obtains the warrant through the use of illegal wiretapping or eavesdropping. In these situations, the defendant may have a basis for asking the court to suppress the evidence obtained through this unconstitutional conduct.  Having evidence suppressed means that the evidence cannot be considered in the criminal case.

If you have questions regarding controlled substance charges, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

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