Understanding Searches and Seizures in Drug Possession Cases

St. Charles drug charges defense attorney

The majority of drug possession charges result from a police search of a person’s property. In the United States, citizens have a reasonable right to privacy. Although police are authorized to search an individual or his or her property in some situations, they must follow certain rules and procedures when doing so. When evidence of a crime is uncovered during an unlawful police search, it is possible that this evidence will not be admissible in court. If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or another controlled substance, it is crucial that you know the laws regarding search and seizure of personal property.

When Can Police Search a Person?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives citizens the right to be free from “unreasonable” search and seizure. However, defining which searches are reasonable and which are unreasonable is not always as straightforward as it may seem. Police can search an individual if he or she:

  • Has been arrested on suspicion of committing a criminal offense

  • Has been detained by police based on the reasonable suspicion that he or she is or was involved in a criminal activity

  • Is in a location where police are searching for evidence and they have a reasonable suspicion that he or she has evidence on his or her person

  • Gave police permission to search him or her

When Can Police Search A Home or Car?

The Fourth Amendment protection against unfounded search and seizure typically requires police to obtain a search warrant before searching someone’s personal property. However, motor vehicles are an exception to this requirement. Law enforcement can search an individual’s vehicle without a search warrant if an officer has “probable cause” to believe that there is evidence of criminal activity in the vehicle. If an individual has been arrested, police are authorized to conduct a search of the individual’s vehicle in relation to the arrest. Police may also conduct a warrantless search of a car if an officer has a reasonable belief that a vehicle search is necessary for his or her own protection. Lastly, the police may search a car if the owner gives them permission to do so.

Police typically cannot search a person’s home without obtaining a search warrant from a judge. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Police may search a person’s home without a search warrant if:

  • The individual has just been arrested at home

  • Someone living in the home gave police permission to search the home

  • Evidence of unlawful activity or illegal items is in plain view from outside the home

  • Someone inside the home is in serious danger

  • Police have probable cause to believe that a suspect they are pursuing is inside the property or that evidence of a crime is about to be destroyed

Contact an Illinois Drug Crime Defense Lawyer

If drugs are discovered on a defendant or in his or her property during an unlawful police search, it is possible that the drugs found will not be admissible as evidence in court. If you or a loved one suspect that you were the victim of an unlawful police search or you have been charged with any drug-related criminal offense, contact the Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC. Call our office today at 630-232-1780 to schedule a free consultation with a St. Charles criminal defense attorney.