Facing Drug Charges in Philadelphia? – What to Know About Pennsylvania Search & Seizure Law
Every day, residents of Philadelphia are arrested and charged with drug crimes and related gun offenses. The penalties may be quite severe. Jail and prison time may result, especially for a Possession with Intent to Deliver conviction or where the accused has a prior criminal record. In addition to a possible jail or prison sentence, drug convictions in PA often result in loss of a driver’s license which can cause serious financial hardship. Therefore, it is important to carefully consider any search and seizure issues when facing drug charges in Philadelphia. Violations of a criminal defendant’s constitutional rights may lead to dismissal of the case.
Search & Seizure, Constitutional Rights in Philadelphia Drug Cases
The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantee the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In the context of a drug case in Philadelphia, this generally means that a police officer may not stop or detain a citizen without reasonable suspicion that the individual has committed a crime or is about to commit a crime. In addition, a police officer may not conduct a search unless there is probable cause that the thing being searched contains evidence of a crime. This general principle applies to a person’s body, clothing, bags, car, etc.
Related Criminal Law Article: When Does a Traffic Stop End? (July 14, 2015) [Philadelphia criminal attorney Marc Neff discusses a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court case regarding suppression of drug evidence during a traffic stop.]
Violations of constitutional rights in drug and gun cases in Philadelphia are fairly common. It is crucial to identify search and seizure issues at the outset of the case. Oftentimes, these issues are decided based upon credibility of the officers involved in the arrest or seizure of evidence. Therefore, it is crucial to identify and present evidence to rebut the police officer’s version of the events. This usually requires investigating the circumstances surrounding the arrest and subsequent seizure of drug/gun evidence. For example, in an auto stop drug seizure case in Philadelphia, an eyewitness may be able to counter the officer’s explanation as to why he initiated the stop in the first place. The officer may claim that he initiated the stop because the brake lights were not working properly. An eyewitness may counter that claim and testify that the brake lights were in fact working. If the court finds the eyewitness credible, any drugs or guns seized during the auto stop may be suppressed, and as a result, the case may be dismissed.
It’s important to note that search and seizure law in drug or gun cases is very complex. There are literally hundreds of cases in both federal and state courts which have dealt with search and seizure issues in drug or gun cases. There are many factors involved in analyzing a potential search and seizure issue. In addition, the law is constantly changing. If you were arrested for a drug or gun offense in Philadelphia, it is important to speak to a criminal defense lawyer immediately.
Philadelphia Criminal Law Firm – Drug Offenses
If you, a friend or family member is facing criminal drug or gun charges in Philadelphia, contact our office for a confidential consultation. Our office is located on Market Street in downtown Philadelphia, several blocks from the Criminal Justice Center. Contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800.