Illegal Search and Seizure Defenses in Drug and Gang Cases

Your Rights Against Unreasonable Searches and Seizures Under the United States Constitution

Have you or a loved one been charged for violating drug laws? A criminal conviction can result in serious repercussions. A conviction can mean significant jail time, heavy fines, and lost opportunities and rights. That is why it’s crucial to get represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and fight the criminal charges against you.

In this article, we discuss your Fourth Amendment Rights if you were arrested for alleged drug possession, use, or sale. If you believe your rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated, contact a defense lawyer from Swingle Levin immediately.

Understanding Illegal Search and Seizure

Legal Framework and the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every person’s right against unreasonable search and seizure. The US Constitution reads:

“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.”

Simply put, a person or their property cannot be searched without a valid warrant. Search and seizure may also be allowed in certain circumstances, although no valid warrant exists. Also, a law enforcement officer cannot take custody of objects or other pieces of evidence in the possession of a person unless the law permits it.

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and searches generally require a warrant supported by probable cause. However, there are several well-established exceptions:

  1. 1. Consent: A person may voluntarily waive their Fourth Amendment rights and consent to a search.
  2. Search Incident to Arrest: Police may search a person and their immediate vicinity incident to a lawful arrest to ensure officer safety and prevent destruction of evidence.
  3. Exigent Circumstances: Police may conduct a warrantless search if there is probable cause and exigent circumstances, such as imminent danger, hot pursuit, or prevention of evidence destruction.
  4. Plain View: Police may seize evidence in plain view if they are lawfully present in the location and have probable cause to believe the item is contraband or evidence of a crime.
  5. Automobile Exception: Police may search a vehicle without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe it contains contraband or evidence of a crime for which they are arresting an individual when the individual was stopped in his or her vehicle.
  6. Stop and Frisk: Police may conduct a brief investigatory stop (Terry stop) based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and frisk for weapons if there is a reasonable belief the person is armed and dangerous.
  7. Border Searches: Routine searches at international borders or their functional equivalent are permissible without probable cause or a warrant.
  8. Administrative Searches: Certain searches, such as inspections, regulatory searches, or school searches, may be conducted without a warrant or probable cause if they are reasonable and serve a special government need.

Warrantless searches are presumptively unreasonable, and the government bears the burden of proving an exception applies. The scope of any search must be limited to the justification for the exception.  Importantly, even the exceptions have exceptions and are extremely dependent on many fact-specific circumstances.

Illegal searches and seizures are very common in drug and gang criminal cases. If the police officer searched you or your property before or during the arrest, your criminal defense attorney will investigate your case. This is to determine if the search was legal.

If there was an illegal search and seizure, the evidence obtained during the search cannot be used as evidence against you. In the terms of the law, the evidence obtained during unreasonable searches is inadmissible.

Common Illegal Search Scenarios in Drug and Gang Cases

Drug Laws in Georgia prohibit the possession, manufacturing, trafficking, distribution, or conspiracy to commit any of these offenses, of controlled substances. The penalties can be up to 30 years of jail time. Factors like the substance involved, the schedule of illegal substance and its quantity, and the arrested person’s previous criminal record are considered.

Instances happen when a person gets arrested for drug-related crimes but later gets acquitted after trial because of unlawful search and seizure.

Here are some scenarios that may lead to illegal search and seizure:

  • Incorrect Address: The law enforcement officers had a valid search warrant. The warrant states they have to search the apartment’s resident. They reached the address and discovered a three-floor apartment with different door numbers. Not knowing where the suspect was particularly residing, they searched all the units in the apartment building.
  • Search Without the Suspect Present: Armed with a search warrant, the police went to the suspect’s address. They discovered that the suspect no longer resided at the address but proceeded with the search. They discovered illegal drugs and paraphernalia and arrested the person currently living at the address mentioned in the search warrant.
  • Lack of Probable Cause: A person is walking alone during the wee hours of the night and looking suspicious. A police officer stops the person, frisks them, and upon frisking, finds illegal drugs in the person’s possession.

The instances above are just examples of how rights may be violated in drug and gang cases. Despite the police’s right to arrest suspected criminals, the arrested individual has the right to defend himself with the help of his attorney.

Whether someone is convicted or acquitted depends on the circumstances surrounding their case, which is why talking to a drug lawyer is crucial if you or a loved one is arrested for possession of an illegal substance. Call us for more information.

Challenging Illegal Search and Seizure

Legal Strategies to Challenge Unlawful Evidence

In criminal cases, an arrested person is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The help of an experienced defense lawyer is vital in formulating defense strategies to defend your case.

Here are some of the legal strategies and defenses used by criminal defense attorneys:

  1. Examining the witness to prove credibility: The defense attorney may cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses during trial. One of the goals of cross-examination is to point out the weaknesses in the witness’s testimony. Through cross-examination questions, the defense lawyer can discredit the testimony of a witness or prove that the search and seizure were illegal.
  2. Asserting your constitutional rights: This can also be done during the trial.
  3. Calling the evidence into question by filing a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence: Evidence obtained in violation of a person’s constitutional rights is inadmissible in court and should be called into question.

Were you charged with a crime involving illegal substances? Speak with the skilled criminal defense lawyers from Swingle Levin today.

Swingle Levin’s Extensive Experience in Action

From Arrest to Trial: What to Expect

Immediately after arrest, the police will hold the suspect in custody. If the case is bailable, the suspect may be admitted to bail in order for them to be released pending their criminal case.

The case will be scheduled for arraignment, which is the arrested person’s first appearance in court. At the arraignment, the charges filed against the arrested person are read. They will then be asked whether they plead “guilty” or “not guilty.”

In most cases, a preliminary hearing is held. After the preliminary hearing, the trial is conducted. If the defendant is found not guilty, then the case ends, and the defendant is free to go. The court will impose an appropriate sentence if the defendant is found guilty. In some cases, the court may also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim or victims.

Collaborating With a Criminal Defense Lawyer From Swingle Levin

Dealing with criminal charges for drug offenses is stressful and may result in graver penalties if you are not appropriately defended. When you hire our Georgia defense attorney, we will work hard to strategize and build a strong defense for your case.

Call Swingle Levin if you or a loved one is arrested for violation of drug laws or any other laws that can be the subject of criminal cases. Our personalized approach has resulted in favorable dispositions of our clients’ cases.

Do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation if you or a loved one is charged with an illegal substance case.