When is a search leading to a drug charge a legal search?

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2023 | Drug charges |

Alabama drug charges are frequently the result of police officers physically finding contraband. They might locate drugs on someone’s person, inside of vehicle or at a residence. The officers then seize those drugs as evidence.

Prosecutors can later pursue criminal charges against the person who allegedly possessed those controlled substances. The penalties possible will depend on someone’s criminal record, as well as the type and amount of drugs police officers found.

Those facing drug charges in Alabama often worry that the state’s evidence will automatically lead to a conviction. People often consider pleading guilty even if they insist that they did not actually break the law. They worry that going to trial will put them at risk for major penalties.

However, some defendants can avoid a conviction by challenging evidence gathered during an illegal search.

There are limits to when the police can search

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by government authorities. Police officers cannot search people at random without justification. Illegal searches can lead to the exclusion of certain evidence at trial later. They obviously want to avoid that situation by conducting a lawful search.

A lawful search typically occurs under very specific circumstances. Police officers who have a credible suspicion of criminal activity can go to a judge to obtain a search warrant. A search warrant allows police officers to conduct a limited search to look for specific evidence at a particular location. Without a warrant, police officers need either probable cause or permission to conduct a search.

Often, they trick people into giving permission by casually asking if they can come inside or look through a vehicle. They can then continue searching if they find any indication of criminal activity even if someone wants to revoke their permission.

Other times, police officers may have probable cause to search someone without their consent. Probable cause requires a specific suspicion of criminal activity. Officers would need to be able to explain why they believed the individual had broken the law to justify a probable cause search. If police officers did not abide by these rules, then the evidence that they discovered may not be admissible during a criminal trial.

Challenging the inclusion of evidence obtained during an illegal search is one potentially viable defense strategy for those accused of Alabama drug offenses. Seeking legal guidance to better determine the legality of a search is usually a good place to start.