I'm facing a drug crime in South Florida, but what if the drugs were illegally found?
Great news - if you’re facing a drug crime in Fort Lauderdale or South Florida, but you believe the arrest or the way that the drugs were found was illegal, that is a very plausible defense to the allegation of drug crimes against you in Florida.
If you believe that the drugs responsible for your criminal charge were illegally found, a South Florida criminal defense attorney can argue that police committed a violation of your 4th amendment rights as a possible defense against South Florida drug charges.
The search-and-seizure provisions afforded to police by the Fourth Amendment in the US Constitution are all about privacy.
The Fourth Amendment protects you against "unreasonable" searches and seizures by state or federal law enforcement authorities - this includes Florida Deputies, Florida Police, Florida cops, etc.
Imagine you were pulled over for not completely stopping at a stop sign at an intersection, for example. The cop thinks you're acting nervously, so he or she does a search of your car. The police officer finds marijuana in your car.
In most courts, this type of scenario will be deemed as an unreasonable search, since not completely stopping at a stop sign is not probable cause enough to search your car. Being or acting “nervous” is also not enough probable cause to search your car.
Therefore, in this type of scenario - if drugs are found in your car but the search that found the drugs was unconstitutional, it is likely that your charges could be completely dropped by the judge - or greatly dismissed in severity.
What Searches does the Fourth Amendment allow in Florida?
The flip side is that the Fourth Amendment does permit searches and seizures that are reasonable.
In practice, this means that the police may override your privacy concerns and conduct a search of you, your home, barn, car, boat, office, personal or business documents, bank account records, trash barrel, or whatever, if:
- the police have probable cause to believe they can find evidence that you committed a crime, and a judge issues a warrant, or
- The particular circumstances justify the search without a warrant first being issued (typically a warrant is issued, unless it is a situation that appears to be an emergency or if someone seems to be in danger)
When the Fourth Amendment Doesn't Protect You from Searches in Florida
The Fourth Amendment only applies, and only protects you if a person has a "legitimate expectation of privacy" in the place being searched. For example - at an airport, it is not a violation of your 4th amendment right to have to get patted down - security and TSA don’t need a warrant to search your body at an airport as you go through security because there is not an expectation of privacy, and you should be well aware that you and your things will be searched in some capacity.
If not in a place or situation where someone has a "legitimate expectation of privacy," the amendment offers no protection because there are, by definition, no privacy issues.
Courts generally use a two-part test to determine whether, at the time of the search, a defendant had a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in the place or things searched.
The two main questions are:
- Did the person actually expect some degree of privacy?
- Is the person's expectation objectively reasonable—that is, one that society is willing to recognize?
Learn about specific Florida drug crime sentencing penalties here.
South Florida Drug Possession Crimes: How Rossen Law Firm Wins Cases
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