Articles Posted in Warrantless Search

As we noted earlier this month, many drug arrests start as traffic stops. In addition, a lot of drug arrests stem from encounters where the police stop an individual and eventually engage in a search of that individual’s person. Unless the interaction was completely voluntary (such as a situation where the police informed you that you were free to leave,) that stop may implicate your Fourth Amendment rights, and any evidence obtained in that search may be illegally obtained if the police lacked the required degree of reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Contesting illegal searches and getting illegally obtained evidence suppressed is often a key component of success in criminal defense, especially in weapons or drug cases. Having the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side is an essential part of maximizing your chances of success in this type of motion.

A drug case from last year involving a search conducted at a shopping mall highlights many of the considerations involved in this kind of case. The incident began when two local police detectives patrolling the Brooklyn Park Shopping Plaza noticed a man, A.G., who had been banned from the plaza based on suspected drug dealing.

When they caught up to A.G., D.S. was standing at his side. The detectives asked to search A.G. and he consented. At that point, D.S. volunteered to allow the detectives to search his pockets. During the latter search, police discovered an object beneath one of the teen’s pockets. Upon further searching, the police found 26 vials of crack cocaine.

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Many drug “busts” by police officers start as traffic stops. While most are conducted within the bounds of the law, a substantial percentage of them are not. In those instances, the pulled-over driver is subjected to a search and/or seizure that violates constitutional protections. When that happens, the search is illegal and the evidence obtained is subject to suppression in any ensuing trial. To get that evidence suppressed, though, you’ll need to make a motion and win an argument before the judge. When it comes to doing this (and all the other essential tasks of a criminal defense) successfully, make sure you’ve got the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side.

As an example, there’s this drug case upon which the federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Maryland, the Carolinas, and two other states) recently ruled.

The minor traffic violation, in this case, was tinted windows. A local police officer stopped H.D., suspecting that the man’s windows were illegally dark. While the officer was speaking with backup officers who had arrived subsequently, the suspect drove away.

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This blog spends a lot of time talking about police searches. That’s no accident. A lot of arrests and criminal trials arise because the police stopped somebody, searched them, then found something on them that the state uses as the basis for a prosecution. One of the biggest keys to avoiding that conviction often is showing that the police had no right to stop you in the first place, which means none of the evidence they obtained in that search is usable against you. This essential attack is one of the many areas where having the right Maryland criminal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference.

Take, for example, the criminal prosecution of D.S. in Prince George’s County. D.S., a Washington, D.C. man, was hanging around four other men and a dice game in Brentwood. Officers in marked vehicles approached. An officer asked the men if they had “anything illegal” on them. D.S. indicated that he had roughly one ounce of marijuana in his possession.

The officer then did a pat-down search. At that time, he found a gun in D.S.’s waistband. Based on that interaction, the state charged D.S. with several gun charges and also possession of marijuana.

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The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that the “right of the people to be secure… against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” This is one of the most important rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, especially if you are someone on trial for a crime. This right may give you vital tools you can use as part of your defense, such as seeking the suppression of evidence obtained without a warrant. If you’re under investigation or on trial for a crime in this state, you should act immediately to retain an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer who can help you in the protection of your rights.

When people think about the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment, they generally will think of “unreasonable searches.” However, the other right ensured within that text – protection against unreasonable seizures – is every bit as important.

Many times, the evidence the police obtained was something they got by first engaging in an illegal seizure. Such was the case recently for one man from Prince George’s County on trial for a gun charge.

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If you’re familiar enough with policing, you know that a significant number of criminal arrests start out as traffic stops. Some law enforcement officers, armed only with their own intuition, will do their very best to concoct a reason to make a traffic stop because they believe they can get substantial proof of a crime… if they can just get you pulled over. Many times, though, these kinds of traffic stops are violations of the Fourth Amendment. If you’ve been arrested as a result of an improper traffic stop, you may be able to get all the evidence the police seized tossed, but you’ll have to win a suppression argument to do it. When it comes to this and other critical elements of your criminal trial, make sure you have the legal representation you need from an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer.

Most people are aware of the broad stereotype that people under the influence of marijuana drive very slowly. Comedic actor Tommy Chong once remarked, “Everybody worries about driving when you’re stoned. No! Not gonna hurt anybody going five miles an hour!” Law enforcement officers are aware of this, too.

As a recent drug crimes case demonstrates, though, just driving very slowly down a highway does not, by itself, amount to the required degree of “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the constitution requires in order for a police officer to make a traffic stop.

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If you are pulled over because the police suspect that you were driving drunk, you face an array of potential outcomes, and many of them are not good. Sometimes, though, the police may make procedural errors in the conduct of your investigation and/or arrest, and those errors may allow you to obtain a lesser punishment or to get the charges dropped entirely. If such an opportunity exists, a Maryland criminal defense lawyer knowledgeable about DUI and DWI law can help you put on the strongest possible defense.

There are actually multiple different ways in which a DUI arrest can go awry procedurally. J.D.’s case, while occurring outside Maryland, makes for a good illustration. J.D., while allegedly driving drunk, lost control of her Ford Mustang and hit another car. One of the passengers in that other car died. A state trooper allegedly noticed that J.D. smelled of alcohol, slurred her speech, had bloodshot eyes, and also was unable to perform field sobriety tests successfully.

Eight law enforcement officers responded to the crash scene, but none of them contacted either the “on-call” prosecuting attorney or a judge concerning obtaining a search warrant. Instead, a trooper took J.D. to a nearby hospital for an involuntary blood draw. (The driver had twice refused requests for a voluntary blood test.) The test result was .130 and was a key piece of evidence in her DUI manslaughter case, which resulted in a conviction.

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When you are on trial for drug crimes or weapons charges, there’s a realistic chance that the primary evidence the state intends to use against you was obtained by a police search conducted without a warrant. The state will inevitably attempt to argue that the evidence is admissible under one or more of the exceptions to the general rule against warrantless searches but, sometimes, that argument is deficient, and there is no constitutionally permissible basis for the warrantless search in your case. When that happens, it is critical to have a skillful Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to get that evidence excluded from your case.

One of the exceptions to the rule against warrantless searches is something called the “community caretaking” exception. This exception recognizes that the police wear multiple hats. Not only do their job duties include obtaining evidence to use against criminal suspects, but also ensuring public safety. It is important to recognize, however, that a police officer’s public safety duties do not give them carte blanche to do whatever they want in terms of conducting a search. If they do a search that goes beyond what is necessary to ensure safety, then the exception will not cover the evidence they find.

A recent drug case from Frederick was a good example. A police officer responded to an apartment building at 2:00 a.m. after a 911 call and a potential domestic disturbance. In the apartment, the officer encountered a man and a woman. Later, a second officer arrived as back-up. At that time, the woman disclosed that her children were in the apartment.

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Police many times strive to create situations in which they can conduct a search of your vehicle in order to obtain additional evidence… and possibly additional charges. The problem for the police is that they cannot search just anyone’s car. They need either to have a search warrant for that car or they need to have probable cause to conduct a warrantless search. A great deal of evidence is often unearthed through the execution of warrantless searches and, a lot of times, those searches are the result of insufficient probable cause. When that happens, you need the right Maryland criminal defense attorney on your side to get that evidence suppressed at trial.

O.W. was someone caught in a warrantless search scenario like that. In early 2019, Anne Arundel County police sought to arrest him on an open arrest warrant. The police apprehended the man at a Glen Burnie car wash. After the police took the man into custody, they searched the vehicle he drove to the car wash. The police found a handgun lying on the seat underneath a jacket. That gun led the police to add an additional weapons charge against O.W.

O.W. faced several complications in seeking to get the gun evidence excluded from his case. For one thing, the car wasn’t legally his, a fact that the state pointed out in its argument against suppression of the gun evidence. O.W.’s girlfriend had leased the vehicle and the lease had expired the day before the police apprehended the man.

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One of the ways that police seek to obtain evidence to use against suspects is through performing warrantless searches. A warrantless search may allow the police to recover drugs, weapons or other objects that lead to an arrest. Fortunately, the constitution does not allow the police to conduct warrantless searches whenever they want; rather, the law requires them to have a “reasonable articulable suspicion.” Without that, the search is illegal, and evidence recovered is subject to being suppressed at your trial. Keeping that evidence out requires making the right suppression arguments, though, so be sure you are protecting your rights by having an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney representing you.

Having established that a reasonable articulable suspicion is required, the next question you’re probably wondering is… what is a reasonable suspicion? For example, is the fact that you were caught by the police in a high-crime area enough to allow for a search without a warrant? As one recent case from Prince George’s County recently reminds us, the answer to that generally is “no.”

In that case, two Prince George’s County police officers went to an apartment complex in a high-crime area in response to a noise complaint. The officers saw several people in and around a dark-colored car. As the officers approached, T.R. stepped up onto the curb in front of the car. One officer asked T.R. a question and, after T.R. made a motion that the officer interpreted as reaching for a gun, he conducted a pat-down search.

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Law enforcement officers may stop your moving vehicle or approach your parked vehicle for a variety of reasons. While many of those reasons are legal and appropriate, sometimes they’re not. When you’re involved in an illegal search and seizure and that encounter ends with your arrest, then the law says that you are entitled to a trial that does not include the evidence found. A trial without that evidence will almost certainly increase your odds of an acquittal. However, to get that trial without that damaging evidence, you have to know the right way to go about seeking a ruling from the judge suppressing that evidence. To ensure that your criminal trial does not include any evidence the police obtained illegally, it pays to have a skilled Maryland criminal defense attorney handling your case.

K.W.’s criminal case was one of those situations. He and a woman were inside a pickup truck parked in a Temple Hills apartment complex parking lot. While on patrol, a police officer spotted “a lot of movement” inside K.W.’s truck, so the officer approached the truck.

Once K.W.’s passenger rolled down her window, the officer smelled an odor of alcohol, and spotted a half-empty bottle of gin and two plastic cups with what looked like liquor in them. The officer ordered K.W. out of the truck. The officer then began a search of the truck, theoretically to recover the bottle of gin. During the search, the officer found a gun that was registered to K.W.

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