For many people who have been charged with drug possession of other criminal charges, one of the first questions involves their privacy rights. What if the police found incriminating evidence in a way that seemed unfair? Are the police allowed to do anything they want when it comes to searching your home or car?
The short answer is: no. There are strict rules regulating what the police are allowed to do when it comes to searching your home and your car. It is important to know these limits to protect your rights and your future.
In general, for the police to conduct a search, they need a warrant, and without a warrant, they need to be able to show that more than likely a crime has been committed and that their search will yield evidence of the crime (this is called probable cause).
The police may also search areas where you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
When the police violate these rules, it is called an illegal search. This is important because any evidence obtained in an illegal search cannot be used in the prosecution. For example, in a marijuana possession charge, if the marijuana itself is found by the police through an illegal search, the prosecutor cannot use the marijuana in court. Without the marijuana, there is no case.
A couple of recent Supreme Court cases have increased protection for people from the invasiveness of police searches. In one case, the court determined that police need a warrant to search a motorcycle in a driveway. Another case resulted in the rule that police cannot search the area around a home without a warrant.
While these cases might seem to result in small changes in the law, they are important. Both of these cases further limit what the police can do in terms of searching homes and vehicles.
The fact is: you have rights. If you have been charged with any type of drug crime, and there was a search involved, talk with an experienced attorney. A lawyer with skill and experience can uncover any possible instance of illegal search or seizure and use it to create a strong legal defense on your behalf.