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Consensual search leads to drug arrest in South Florida

When police make a drug arrest it is often the result of a traffic stop, a police investigation, or someone calling the police to report suspicious activity. It is unusual for an arrest on drug charges to follow from the suspect calling the police himself. But that is what happened to a 77-year-old Marathon, Florida man recently. To make matters worse for the man, when police arrived he consented to a search of his trailer.

To be fair, neighbors of the man had also called the police. But when the police came to the man's trailer home it was also in response to a call he had made. It seems he wanted to complain to the officers about his neighbors taking photographs of people who visited his trailer. Apparently the man had a lot of visitors, and when officers asked about this he told them he had numerous friends.

The police asked the man if they could search his trailer, and he agreed and signed a form consenting to the search. During the search officers discovered plastic bags containing marijuana, as well as over $1,000 in cash. At this point the man confessed and told the officers that his neighbors had complained about the high number of visitors to his trailer; apparently the neighbors had called the police before the man did. The man was arrested and charged with several drug offenses.

In many drug cases a key defense strategy is to challenge the constitutionality of the search and seizure that led to the discovery of the drugs. Without a search warrant, officers cannot conduct a search except under certain recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. If none of the exceptions apply, the officers are required to get a warrant before they can conduct the search. Even if a warrant was obtained, defense counsel can challenge the search, and have the evidence seized thrown out, if police did not have probable cause to get the warrant in the first place.

But if the suspect consents to the search, all of these potential defenses go out the window. Maybe the best this man can hope for is that the prosecutor will agree to reduce charges in light of his cooperation with the police.

Source: South Florida Times, "Around South Florida with Elgin Jones," Elgin Jones, Jan. 2, 2013

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