Illegal drugs discovered during police searches are often key pieces of evidence in narcotics prosecutions, but criminal defense attorneys in Texas and around the country may argue that searches and seizures are illegal in certain situations. The protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are taken seriously by the courts, and police officers must generally obtain warrants before searching individuals or their vehicles or residences.
However, there are exceptions to this general rule. Police may conduct warrantless searches when they have good reason to believe that they will discover evidence of criminal activity, and many cases involving serious drug charges are decided based on whether or not this probable cause existed. Police officers must also show probable cause when applying for a search warrant. Officers may claim to have the probable cause needed to conduct a warrantless search when they see illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia in plain sight or notice the smell of marijuana emanating from a vehicle.
Obtaining a warrant does not necessarily mean that evidence discovered during a police search will be admissible in court. Search warrants are sometimes quite limited and may only allow police to look for certain items, such as a gun or evidence of drug sales, in specific places. Any evidence gathered beyond this limited scope could be excluded.
Police officers who do not have probable cause to conduct a warrantless search sometimes ask suspects to consent to a search of their persons or property. Experienced criminal defense attorneys would likely advise their clients not to agree to such requests even when the situation seems grim. Attorneys may also suggest that individuals presented with a search warrant obtain legal counsel. If you or somebody you know has questions about the validity of a police search and the admissibility of the evidence collected, please visit our page dealing with drug charges for more information.