Illegal Searches

After years of practicing criminal law and defending hundreds drug cases one alarming fact has become clear.  No matter where you have been arrested or charged by a summons for a drug case in Maryland, chances are that the police performed an illegal search.  Some search violations are more obvious than others, but in this day and age we simply cannot rely on police to follow the constitutional rules against illegal searches.  We have seen over and over that if police officers want to gain access to a house, car, container, or a pants pocket they will do so regardless of probable cause or reasonable suspicion.  The question then becomes what steps you have to take to fight back.  We always recommend consulting with a lawyer the minute you or someone you know has been arrested.  The Herbst Firm’s drug lawyers are available anytime to speak with you about your possession or distribution case, and we can usually tell right away if your case has legal issues that can result in a dismissal.  There are hundreds of ways that the police can recover evidence through an illegal search, and a couple of these common scenarios are laid out in the following.

The most common illegal searches occur during traffic stops, and sometimes it is actually hard to tell in the heat of the moment if a police officer is following the law.  If an officer stops a driver for a traffic infraction and believes that the driver is suspicious, more likely than not the officer will assume that drugs are present in the car.  It is completely legal for a cop to order a driver out of the car during a traffic stop for officer safety reasons, and this is usually where an illegal search begins.  Cops will typically try to get the driver to consent to a search of the car.  If consent is not given then they usually threaten to bring a K9 unit, which is followed by the all too common line of “we can do this the easy way or the hard way”.  Red flag number one should be raised as soon as an officer mentions bringing out the drug sniffing dog.  Under Supreme Court rulings, an officer may only deploy a K9 unit at the scene of a traffic stop if it is done within the reasonable amount of time it takes to complete the stop.  This basically means the time to take a drivers information and write a citation.  Cops cannot detain you on a hunch and make you wait for the dogs to show up, even if you are not placed in handcuffs.  If police made you wait for a K9 unit to show up, a lawyer may be able to suppress the evidence in your case.

Another common illegal search occurs when police overextend a legal search.  For example, if during a traffic stop an officer smells marijuana coming from the passenger compartment of a car, he or she is only allowed to search the passenger compartment.  A cop may not go into the trunk of a car without probable cause to believe that the trunk contains the pot.  Many cops are either unaware of this law or simply choose to ignore it and pop the trunk on their own.  Do not let an illegal search leave you with a criminal record!  The Maryland drug lawyers at The Herbst Firm will go to any length to have your case dismissed and the evidence thrown out in court.
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