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Illegal searches can lead to drug charge dismissals

Most drug charges result from some sort of search -- and not all of those searches are legal. One of the most common ways that your defense attorney can defend you in a drug possession case is to challenge the legality of the search that turned up the drugs.

If your attorney is successful in challenging the legality of the search, then any evidence found during that search, including the drugs, is generally inadmissible in court. That can leave the prosecution without a case and no choice but to dismiss the charges.

What exactly makes a search illegal?

The laws regarding search and seizure are actually very complicated -- which is why they are so often violated. In general, however, you should remember these facts:

-- You never want to give permission for a search. That includes saying nothing if the officer asks, "Do you mind if I look around in here?"

-- If you are being asked for permission, the police don't believe that they have a valid reason to search you or your property without it (or a warrant). They probably don't think that they have enough evidence for a warrant, either, or they would simply get that.

-- Your response to any request should always be a polite, but firm, "No, sorry, officer, but I don't give my consent to any searches without a warrant."

When will a court declare a search illegal?

If the police go ahead and search your possessions or car despite your refusal to get permission, don't object -- that's your attorney's job. He or she will challenge the legality of the search in court.

When evaluating a search for the purposes of determining whether or not it was legal, the courts will generally look at several factors:

-- Was there a reasonable expectation of privacy involved by the defendant when the search happened?

-- Was consent obtained for the search by someone who had the right to give it?

-- Was the search conducted as part of an arrest?

-- Was the search the result of an emergency?

-- Were the illegal drugs in plain view of the officers?

Anyone who is arrested on drug charges following a warrantless search and seizure should consider talking to a defense attorney right away.

Source: Findlaw, "Illegal Search and Seizure FAQ," accessed April 14, 2017

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