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Leading Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer » Search & Seizure: Exactly What Police May and May NOT Do.

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Although individuals within the United States are entitled to privacy and freedom from government intrusion, there is a limit to that privacy. State or federal law enforcement officers are permitted, where justified, to search your premises, car, or various other assets in order to look for and seize illegal items, stolen goods or evidence of a criminal offense. What rules must law enforcement follow when engaging in searches and seizures? What can they do in upholding the laws, and what can’t they do?

What police officers May Do:

  • Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, law enforcement officials may engage in "reasonable" searches and seizures.
    • To establish that a search is "reasonable," the authorities need to generally demonstrate that it is more likely than not that a crime has occurred, and that if a search is conducted it is probable that they will find either stolen goods or evidence of the criminal offense. This is often designated probable cause.
    • In a few situations, police officers must first make this showing to a judge who issues a search warrant. In the majority of special circumstances, however, law enforcement may be able to conduct a search without a warrant. In fact, virtually all searches are "warrantless."
  • Police may search and seize items or evidence when there isn’t any "legitimate expectation of privacy." In various other words, in the event you did not have a privacy interest in the items or evidence, the authorities can take them and, in effect, no "search" has transpired.

Note: In deciding whether or not there was a "legitimate expectation of privacy," a court will take into consideration two matters:

  • Did you have an expectation of some degree of privacy?
  • Was that expectation reasonable in our society’s view?

Example: You have a semi-automatic rifle that you had stolen from a pawn shop. You leave the rifle laying on the hood of your vehicle when you get home. You do not have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" with regard to items you leave on the hood of your automobile, and the authorities may take the weapon. No search has happened.

  • Police may use first-hand info, or tips from an informant to justify the need to search your property. If an informant’s info is utilized, police officers need to establish that the information is reliable under the circumstances.
  • Once a warrant is obtained, police officers may enter onto the specified area of the property and search for the items listed on the warrant.
  • Police could very well extend the search beyond the specified area of the property or include some other items in the search beyond those specified or listed in the warrant if it is required to:
    • Ensure their safety or the safety of others;
    • Prevent the destruction of evidence;
    • Discover more about possible evidence or stolen items that are in plain view; or
    • Hunt for evidence or stolen items which, primarily based upon their preliminary search of the specified area, they believe may be in a different location on the property.

Example: Law enforcement have a warrant to search your basement for evidence of a drug manufacturing operation. On their way through your property to go down to the basement, they see a cache of weapons sitting on your kitchen table. Some may take the guns to guarantee their safety while searching your basement.

  • Police may search your property without the need of a warrant in the event you consent to the search. Consent needs to be freely and voluntarily given, and you can never be coerced or tricked into giving it.
  • Police may search your person and the immediate surroundings without any a warrant when they are placing you under criminal arrest.
  • If a person is arrested in a residence, police may make a "protective sweep" of the residence in order to make a "cursory visual inspection" of places where an accomplice may be hiding. In order to accomplish this, the police must have a reasonable belief that an accomplice may be around.

Example: Law enforcement arrest you in your living room on criminal charges of murder. They can open the door of your coat closet to make certain that no one else is hiding there, but may not open your medicine cabinet because an accomplice couldn’t hide there.

  • When you are being taken to jail, police may perform an "inventory search" of items you have with you without the need of a warrant. This search may include your vehicle if it is being held by the authorities in order to make a list of all items inside.
  • Police may search without the need of a warrant if they reasonably fear for their safety or for the public’s safety.

Example: If the authorities drive past your home on a regular patrol of the neighborhood and see you, in your open garage, with ten cases of dynamite and a blowtorch, they can search your garage without a warrant.

  • If it’s required to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence, police officers may search without any a warrant.

Example: If the authorities see you trying to burn a stack of cash that you stole from a bank, they can perform a search without a warrant to stop you from further destroying the money.

  • Perform a search, without the need of a warrant, when they are in "hot pursuit" of a suspect who enters a private dwelling or area following fleeing the scene of a crime.

Example: If law enforcement are chasing you from the scene of a murder, and you run into your apartment in an effort to get away from them, they could follow you into the apartment and search the area without the need of a warrant.

  • Police may perform a pat-down of your outer clothing, in what is designated a "stop and frisk" situation, as long as they reasonably believe that you may be concealing a firearm and they fear for their safety.

Houston Search & Seizure Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Lawyer

What police officers May NOT Do:

  • The law enforcement officials may not perform a warrantless search anywhere you have a reasonable expectation of privacy, unless one of the warrant exceptions applies.
  • If evidence was attained via an unreasonable or illegal search, the police may not use it against you in a trial. This is designated the "exclusionary rule."
  • The law enforcement officials may not use evidence resulting from an illegal search to obtain some other evidence.
  • The police may not submit an affidavit in support of obtaining a search warrant if they didn’t have a reasonable belief in the truth of the statements in the affidavit.
  • Unless there is a reasonable suspicion that it contains evidence, unlawful items, or stolen goods, law enforcement may not search your vehicle. If your vehicle has been seized by the police, however, they can search it.
  • Unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in a criminal activity, the police may not "stop and frisk" you. Should they have a reasonable suspicion, they may pat down your outer clothing if they have concerns that you might be concealing a weapon.

Houston Search & Seizure Defense: Hire the Leading Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer

Courts often need to determine case-by-case whether or not the circumstances in which law enforcement searched without a warrant had been legal. Thus, any time a search has already occurred and you aren’t sure of its legality, speak to the Top Houston Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. And if the search has not yet been conducted, make sure that you understand your rights in advance.

The Best Houston Criminal Lawyer » Facing A Drug Distribution Case? This Approach Is Your Best Strategy.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson Law Firm

Drug distribution/transporting laws penalize the selling, transport, and unlawful import of unlawful controlled substances into the US most notably marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, heroin, and “club drugs”.

Thus, drug distribution/transportation violations may perhaps fall under a group of crime viewed as an organized illegal activity that can add additional criminal charges to a defendant’s crime and increase the penalties if found guilty. Ownership or sale of these drugs is not necessarily a component of the offense, making objective a factor within the prosecution of distribution/transportation cases. Drug distribution/trafficking laws can implicate a single individual or a broad ring of men and women involved within the criminal offense. Transporting of controlled substances over a state line or possibly a country’s border is a federal crime with significant penalties that may possibly include the death penalty for drug kingpins.

Delivery of a drug is defined as the actual or attempted transfer of a drug from one individual to another. Delivery and distribution are treated as separate violations under the Controlled Substance Act. Cash does not have to change hands for someone to be charged with the selling of drugs. For example, you may perhaps be found guilty of delivering a controlled substance even though others perform the physical act of delivery and you do not receive any money for the transaction. As an example, a defendant was present while another individual delivered and sold cocaine to an undercover agent. Evidence that the defendant brought a mirror to the transaction in order to help measure the cocaine was virtually all that was necessary for an arrest of delivery and sale of drugs. Even though the defendant told law enforcement officials that she received a mere one-half gram of crack in return for her help with the drug sale, she was convicted for illegal delivery and sale.

Dispensing of drugs for medical purposes is permitted under quite specific regulations. However, should a physician dispense drugs outside the scope of his medical practice, this individual can certainly be found guilty of drug crimes, as in U.S. v. Singh, (4th Cir. 1995), in which a physician traded drugs for sexual favors with patients hooked on prescription drugs.

Distribution is defined as the delivery of a controlled substance other than for the administering or dispensing of it. An individual is frequently guilty of distribution when he or she transfers a controlled substance to another individual. The transfer can be actual, constructive, or attempted. The transfer is actual whenever a person physically transfers the controlled substance to another; it is constructive, when the federal government can prove that a person intends to sell or distribute an unlawful substance through their actions or when the quantity of drugs in their possession is considerable; it is attempted when that person attempts to transfer the controlled substance to another, but is otherwise prevented from doing so. Anyone who intentionally participates in contributing to a drug transaction, even if only as a translator, is regarded as a deliverer of a controlled substance.

Transportation and distribution of drugs tend to be more serious crimes than is the criminal offense of drug possession; and these crimes bring about the potential for significant consequences. Anyone facing drug charges for drug importation, drug transportation, or drug distribution and sale (excluding small quantities of marijuana) are typically charged with a felony. A drug transportation/distribution charge might bring about one or more years in a state prison along with a permanent criminal record. Automobiles, residences together with other possessions tied into a drug transaction may also have to be forfeited.

The sale of drugs is invariably a felony arrest. A sale of under 40 kilograms of marijuana is known as a felony under federal law, and is punishable by five years in jail and a $250,000 fine. The penalty for the sale of “harder” drugs, crack and heroin, can certainly include a life sentence. Sentences and fines are usually in line with the quantity of the sale, the previous criminal history of the defendant, the presence of firearms on the defendant through the transaction, and whether minors were involved in the transaction or not.

Mere possession of a controlled substance does not demonstrate specific motive to distribute or sell the drug. Motive cannot be proven by use of direct evidence (evidence primarily based on a witness’s firsthand knowledge) or circumstantial evidence (evidence based on inference); a distributor must know that he/she is in possession of a drug meant for distribution.

Defenses for Distribution/Transportation

Defenses for drug distribution/transportation charges ordinarily involve the violation of the Constitutional privileges of the person charged. Due process requires that every element of the crime be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, a high standard when attempting to demonstrate the elements in a distribution/transportation offense. In addition, the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. The unreasonableness is determined by the specifics and circumstances of each case. If the police unlawfully searched you, or illegally seized your property, an Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer could very well be able to have the charges dismissed.Various other proven successful defenses for distribution/transportation criminal charges include entrapment and illegal surveillance, both of which an individual is constitutionally defended against under certain situations.

If you had been in a vehicle containing drugs that was stopped, but you were a passenger, the prosecution needs to establish that you had been in possession and had knowledge of your possession. You may not be found guilty of any drug charge ;if you didn’t realize the drug had been there.

An Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney will make sure your legal rights are defended and if the authorities didn’t follow correct procedures, they will have resulting evidence dismissed.

Houston Drug Distribution Defense Lawyer

If you face any sort of of drug criminal charges, the prosecution will try to press the most severe charges potential. Should you encounter drug distribution criminal charges or you have been arrested for conspiracy with intent to distribute, a conviction could mean a long jail sentence and forfeiture of property and assets.

Law enforcement are not your pals. Your very best chance is to get in touch with an aggressive criminal defense lawyer and keep your mouth shut.

If you are found with scales, drugs, and other distribution materials, you will probably be charged with possession with intent to distribute. Depending on the amount of the drug involved, you could lose vehicles, cash, and even your home if found guilty. Providing the aggressive criminal defense you deserve, a skilled Houston Lawyer will be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

A knowledgeable Houston Criminal Defense Attorney will make certain the burden of proof rests on the prosecution.

The Leading Houston Attorney will treat you and your legal issue with dignity and go to war for you to protect your life, nearest and dearest and future. Whenever you or perhaps a family or close friend are dealing with legal charges or a criminal defense inquiry, you would like an individual you can rely on to assist you.

We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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