Authorities seem to insist on making warrantless searches whenever they think they can, which then exposes their arrest to Fourth Amendment constitutional challenge. That may issue may come up in a warrantless search and arrest of three people for drug charges in North Carolina recently. Two residents of a home in Elizabethtown, along with a man found in their front yard, were charged with numerous drug offenses.
The Elizabethtown police announced a joint operation with probation authorities to conduct what they called a ‘warrantless search’. They entered the home of a 23-year-old suspect and his mother based apparently on the fact that the suspect was on probation and subject to warrantless searches. They reported finding 1.5 grams of crack cocaine and a small amount of marijuana inside the residence. The placing of a blanket warrantless search status on someone, or the abuse of such a procedure to seek out drug charges, may be a constitutionally objectionable practice.
Police charged and held the man, and secured the residence. They then obtained a search warrant. In completing the search, they found a marijuana plant in the back yard, a shotgun, drug paraphernalia and ammunition. Authorities arrested the suspect and his mother on drug charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, maintaining a drug dwelling, drug manufacture of cocaine, manufacturing marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. This is a somewhat surprising flood of charges considering the relatively small quantity of drugs found.
The police also found an individual in the front yard, searched him and found 43.5 grams of marijuana. They charged him with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, drug manufacture, felony possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. His mere presence on the front yard, however, may not have been enough to justify the search, which is an issue that may be examined in later court proceedings.
An arrest for drug charges in North Carolina must comply with the federal and state constitutional rights of the suspects. The propriety of the search will be determined in future proceedings, but there also appears to be a piling on of some charges having no factual support. There may be additional facts not yet known, but if there aren’t any, then an early meeting with defense counsel to start an investigation and construct a strong defense is advisable.
Source: The Bladen Journal, “Three arrested on drug charges,” W. Curt Vincent, May 3, 2013