This is the next post in our series discussing prescription drug offenses in the state of Arkansas. Our last article discussed why it is a mistake to not take prescription drug charges seriously. In this post we will discuss how search and seizure laws frequently affect the strength of the prosecution’s case in a matter involving prescription drugs.
Prescription drug charges often result from Arkansas law enforcement’s search of property
One of the main ways a person might get charged with possession of prescription drugs is due to a search of one’s vehicle. An officer may stop a driver for a number of reasons, many of which are civil in nature rather than criminal- a broken tail light, failure to stop at a red light, or an expired registration. Having a legitimate reason to stop a driver does not give the police officer the right to search one’s car. The officer may, however, investigate the situation further – up to the extent that he or she witnesses evidence of criminal activity. If the officer observes signs of impairment, such as odd or unusual behavior on the part of a driver- bloodshot eyes, or signs of impaired motor functioning- then the driver may be legally asked to step out of the car. From there, the officer may look more closely at the car with regards to what is sitting out in the open. The officer may not open purses, suitcases, boxes, or bags that are closed within the car without a warrant of consent. But if pills are sitting out in the open the officer may confiscate them as evidence. If the pills are not legally prescribed to the person who is possessing them then a drug possession charge may be filed by the district attorney. It is common for such cases to be filed in Arkansas after a vehicle stop.
Many drug possession defenses will come down to a few arguments. One, your defense attorney will want to know specifics in regards to where the pills in question were located in your vehicle. Second, it will be necessary for your lawyer to ask what the officer had to do to gain access to them. An officer must gain consent to search inside your glove box, in the trunk of your car, or in any other space in your vehicle that is contained, unless they have a legitimate argument that their safety was compromised. Your attorney will also explore simple explanation defenses, such as the person who is legally prescribed the medication simply forgot it in your car. It is not unusual for a spouse, child, or close friend, to accidentally leave medication behind. This defense is strengthened if the defendant does not have a history of drug abuse and did not have drugs in their system at the time of the arrest.
A criminal defense lawyer can assert your search and seizure rights and attempt to keep evidence out of Arkansas courts
The laws regarding whether an Arkansas police officer can search your vehicle may sound simple. The truth is that they can get complex when it comes to defending a person’s freedom. Your criminal defense attorney will aggressively question the reason behind your traffic stop, the officer’s reasoning behind searching your car in the first place, whether or not consent was acquired legally, and if the officer had to open any closed vessels to find drugs. If law enforcement violated your rights in any way during the search then your attorney will file a Motion to Suppress all evidence from being heard by a jury. The more evidence that can be suppressed, the less likely the district attorney is to pursue charges.
If you have been arrested for illegally possessing prescription drugs then it is important to hire an attorney who understands how search and seizure laws can benefit you. Contact our Little Rock criminal defense attorneys today for a consultation.