Drug-Related Cases and Illegal Search and Seizure

Interviewer: Have you ever dealt with cases that involve illegal search and seizures?

Traffic Infractions, Many Times, Escalate Investigations by the Police

Brett Hollett: We have. People are pulled over all the time for various different reasons while they’re in the car. Many times, the officer may pull them over for a speeding ticket or some other minor infraction. Upon the officer’s initial contact with the driver, the officer may become suspicious due to numerous factors like area of travel, time of day, occupants in the car, the driver’s behavior. The officer then may ask the driver to consent to search that his or her car.

If You Do Not Consent to a Police Search of Your Vehicle, the Officer Must Obtain a Search Warrant

That individual has the absolute right to not consent to that search. If they do not consent the officer would not be able to search that vehicle unless he subsequently obtained a search warrant. Too often people consent to a search of their vehicle and then end up getting themselves in a lot more trouble. The driver may not be aware of what a passenger has left in his car. The subsequent search by the officer could uncover unknown drugs or drug paraphernalia.   The simple traffic stop has now escalated and the driver is most likely going to jail.

The Police are Well Aware That Most Searches Do Uncover Illegal Possession of a Controlled Substance

Interviewer: Are police officers aware of this? Is it a tactic that they utilize?

Brett Hollett: Yes, it’s a common tactic that they use to try to gain additional information, to try to make a bigger arrest, more than simply writing a ticket. Every time they pull somebody over they can run their driver’s license through their database. They look to see if that person has ever been convicted of any crimes or arrested for any other crimes.

If the Police See That You Have Prior History as a Drug or Alcohol Offender, They Will Pressure You to Consent to a Vehicle Search

If you pop up in their system as being either a drug or alcohol offender in the past, they may try to pressure you a little harder. They may try to obtain that consent to search the vehicle.

Incarceration Alternatives: Drug Courts

Interviewer: Let’s discuss some options some first offenders may have. Are there any pretrial intervention programs available and how do they work?

In Drug Court, You Plead Guilty but the Court Withholds the Guilty Plea While You Fulfill Certain Conditions

Brett Hollett: There are. In Birmingham and the surrounding counties and municipalities, they actually call it drug court and there are different levels and different severities of the drug court. What will happen is that you would agree to stipulate to a prima facie case against you, meaning that you would be pleading guilty to the charged offense but the court with withhold that guilty plea. The court would then require you to complete certain conditions and submit to random drug and alcohol testing and monitoring.

Successful Completion of Any Imposed Conditions Can Result in the Eventual Dismissal of the Case

It would also include education classes for drugs and alcohol. It may include such requirements as community service or other type of classes. You would be required to paysome fines and any costs associated with the program. Additionally, you would need to stay out of trouble and not pick up any new charges for however long the program lasted.

If you were successful and able to do all those things required of you the court would eventually set aside your stipulation of guilt and dismiss your case.

If Your Case Cannot Go to Drug Court, You May Accept a Plea for a Reduced Charge and Receive Probation as Part of a Sentence

Interviewer: Where does probation fit into all this? What warrants probation?

Brett Hollett: Your history and the outcome of the case determine probation. If you’re able to get into one of these diversion programs like drug court that is similar to a probationary period because you’re going to be monitored by the court or monitored by somebody for 3, 6, 12 months.

After that time, if you’re successful they’ll dismiss the case and you won’t have any other requirements, such as probation. However, if you have to plead guilty to that offense or if you plead guilty to a lesser offense, the court may consider probation in lieu of jail time based on several factors such as your past history, family support, and involvement in the community.

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