Attorney Angela Singleton - Oklahoma City Criminal Defense

Can Police Execute A Warrantless Search If They Suspect Drugs?


Whenever I am asked whether or not police can execute a warrantless search if they suspect drugs, I have to start by stating that a person does not have to give consent to any search of their vehicle, person, or home. Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, a person has a right to privacy within their home and car. Some people believe if you don’t consent to a search, then that gives police probable cause to conduct a search. That’s not true. Regardless of your situation, you should absolutely never consent to a search. That being said, officers can search the passenger compartment of your vehicle if they have probable cause.

For example, if the police smell drugs- and they do receive training on what different drugs smell like both in raw and burnt form- they can elicit statements from you regarding the nature of your travels. Your answers to those types of questions, as well as your demeanor, can give them probable cause to search the passenger compartment of your car. Obviously, a certified drug dog alerting on your car would also suffice as probable cause for a search. However, it’s important to note that probable cause to search the passenger compartment does not give them probable cause to search the trunk of the vehicle; they have to have a separate statement of probable cause in order to get into the trunk of your vehicle.

Another important thing to note is that once they do have probable cause and are searching the passenger compartment, they can search anything that it contains, whether it’s a backpack, purse, or a cigarette pack. In fact, they can search inside those containers even if they don’t belong to the driver. To get into a home is a little bit more difficult. They can search a home with probable cause, but the courts have heightened consideration for the privacy of homes. Typically, the police will attempt to gain your consent to search your home. Again, never give consent. They will try to develop probable cause and then just go ahead and obtain a warrant. The topic of search and seizure is a very nuance part of the law, and you really need a trained and experienced attorney who can make sure that your rights are protected. This is because there are so many different ways in which officers can get into your personal belongings, and simply watching TV or reading about these issues cannot suffice for a thorough understanding. You really need somebody that knows what to look for.

Can A Passenger Be Charged If Drugs Are Discovered In The Vehicle?

If drugs are found in a vehicle, the passenger of that vehicle can absolutely be criminally charged. However, in order for the charge to stand up in court, there has to be more than just proximity to the drugs. The government has to show some other connection that specifically links you to the drugs. Now, that could be your proximity to the drugs. For example, if you are the front seat passenger and they find drugs in the front seat, then that proximity to you is sufficient. If, however, they find the drugs in the front passenger seat of the vehicle and you are sitting in the back seat of the vehicle on the driver’s side, that proximity is not going to be sufficient; they are going to need some other connection between you and the drugs in order for the charge to stand in court.

What Is The General Timeline For a Drug Related Case In Oklahoma?

The timeline for drug related cases can vary based on several factors. A lot of it has to do with court dockets in larger jurisdictions, because court dockets that have a lot of people on them can slow things down. In smaller districts, the dockets are spread out because the judges are involved with so many different types of law.

Another thing that may slow down the process of a case is a situation in which the client acknowledges that they have an addition problem and is attempting to address it. In these situations, we try to plan for how we’re going to address the addiction and get the help that is needed. In fact, we may even try to do this before attempting to resolve a court case. Motions and hearings based on search issues can also prolong cases, and this is very common when dealing with drug cases.

Do Most Drug Related Cases Go To Trial Or Do They Plead Out?

Drug cases rarely go to trial- most are resolved through an agreement outside of court. Typically, this is because there is some sort of addiction problem that is being addressed. By addressing that addiction, you’re able to negotiate a good resolution for the case that will work out for everybody. The other reason drug crimes usually don’t go to trial is because there are often issues with how the search was conducted. If a search is found to have been invalid, then all of the evidence that was found based on that search can be dismissed. Circumstances such as these would essentially leave the state with no case.

What Sets You And Your Firm Apart In Handling Drug Related Cases?

First and foremost, my training and experience sets me apart from the rest. As a former prosecutor, I have firsthand knowledge of how drug crimes are policed, how they are investigated, and how they are prosecuted. I have had extensive training on search issues and have advised and trained law enforcement regarding searches. I have vast courtroom experience with motions and hearings on search issues. I also have extensive jury trial experience. But what really separates my firm from the rest is my approach, which is to focus on my client’s needs- whether that’s an aggressive fight for constitutional rights, or finding resolution for an addiction issue. Each case is about the client. It’s about what they need, and it’s about helping them get their life back.

For more information on Warrantless Searches In Oklahoma, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (855) 748-8771.