Search & Seizure: Basic Issues Regarding Their Search For Weapons, Drugs, Firearms and Other Contraband

This Legal Guide discusses basic issues regarding the search of persons, vehicles, cars and homes. These cases often involve police searching for illegal contraband such as guns, drugs and/or other contraband. Please contact me for consultation if you have specific questions related to your case.

SEARCH & SEIZURE: AN OVERVIEW

Naturally, “unlawful possession” charges require evidence of illegal contraband. Officers obtain the contraband by searching people’s bodies, cars and/or homes. Consequently, the issues surrounding Search & Seizure are highly complex and multi-layered. Statutes and case law continue to evolve. Fortunately – and depending on the facts and case law – competent attorneys can argue a motion to suppress contraband which was unlawfully obtained in violation of a citizen’s 4th and 6th Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and Sections 3 and 7 of the WA Constitution. If evidence is suppressed, cases are typically dismissed. Again, the issues are voluminous. Recent Search & Seizure cases are discussed in the links to my blog below. The links analyze recent case law from the WA Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, U.S. Federal Courts and United States Supreme Court.

SEARCH AND SEIZURE OF PERSONS

Sometimes, law enforcement officers become suspicious of people who are otherwise minding their own business while walking down the street or loitering a city block. Under the law, officers can approach anyone and ask for their identification. Beyond that, however, the scope of their questioning must be supported by reasonable and articulable facts. These circumstances raise numerous issues. How intrusive can an officer’s questions and subsequent searches be under Terry v. Ohio and related case law? Does probable cause exist? Can a person’s admissions alone guarantee an arrest and search? Is there consent to the questions/search? Do exigent circumstances exist to search/arrest a suspect? These issues, and more, become the basis upon which competent defense counsel can argue a motion to suppress evidence and dismiss criminal charges.

SEARCH AND SEIZURE INVOLVING CARS

It happens every day: law enforcement officers pull motorists over, conduct superficial questioning and begin searching vehicles for contraband. Here, the issues are also multi-layered. Can officers search a motorist for drugs after contacting them for mere traffic infractions? Is the search unlawfully pretextual? How intrusive should the search be under the circumstances? Can passengers in vehicles be detained and searched as well? What constitutes a search? What constitutes consent to a search? Was the possession of the contraband actual or constructive? What types of defenses exist? If there is no consent to the search, do exigent circumstances exist to justify the search? Can a police officer search motorists and passengers if the officer sees/smells evidence of drugs? Can officers obtain warrants to search vehicles incident to arresting the motorist? These issues, and more, become the basis upon which competent defense counsel can argue a motion to suppress evidence and dismiss criminal charges.

SEARCH AND SEIZURE INVOLVING HOMES

“A man’s home is his castle . . .” or so we hope. Sometimes, police officers unlawfully search a defendant’s home on a mere hunch, and engage “fishing expeditions” unsupported by anything beyond their mere suspicions. In the rare event the officers have search warrants, these warrants might be unsupported by probable cause, unspecific to the contraband they seek, and/or simply inappropriate under the circumstances. Did the defendant consent to the search? If not, did exigent circumstances exist to search the home? Was there a search warrant? Was the warrant signed by a judge? Did the search warrant particularly state the specific items are the officers searched for? What probable cause leads them to believe they’ll find contraband? Again, consult a qualified attorney could greatly assist you by arguing motions to suppress and/or taking the issue before a jury of your peers. And of course, contact me for a free consultation if you have any questions. Good luck!

Additional resources provided by attorney Alexander Ransom