St. Lucie Sheriff’s Deputies Bust Marijuana Distribution Ring
Three people are in custody after deputies served a drug search warrant on a Northwest Belwood Circle residence.
In the house, investigators seized roughly 316 grams of marijuana, which is enough to make about 1,200 joints. At the time, the marijuana was in clear plastic baggies. Deputies also seized pipes which contained trace amounts of marijuana residue. Two women inside the house were arrested on drug trafficking charges and released after posting bail. Outside the house, deputies arrested a man sitting in a car after they searched the vehicle and found two rocks of crack cocaine along with two pipes that contained cocaine residue.
The man was also released after posting bail.
Warrant Requirements in Port St. Lucie
Under state and federal law, there are basically two requirements for drug and other search warrants:
- Warrants must be based on probable cause, and
- They must be specific in terms of the place to be searched and the items that officers can seize.
Sometimes, probable cause is based on an informer’s tip. Courts scrutinize such tips to ascertain their reliability, because not all tips are created equally. “Anonymous tips” are particularly suspect, because the tipster did not even feel good enough about the information to verify its source. Paid informers aren’t much more reliable. In many cases, these individuals may receive thousands of dollars for a single tip.
In other cases, probable cause is the facts which officers see and interpret. Lately, in cases like Utah v. Strieff, the Supreme Court has sided with police officers in these cases even if they had little more than a “gut feeling” that something wicked this way comes.
Moreover, the warrant must be as limited as possible. Back in colonial days, British authorities sometimes used “writs of assistance,” which were essentially blank search warrants. Most people agree that the Founding Fathers proposed the Fourth Amendment specifically to end this kind of behavior.
If the warrant is for a house, officers usually cannot search an automobile that happens to be parked nearby. Moreover, if the warrant states that officers can look for marijuana in the living room, they cannot look for illegal weapons in the bedroom. Generally, these searches are only legal if an exception applies.
Some Search Warrant Exceptions in Florida
For the St. Lucie County deputies to search the car outside the home, they probably needed a search warrant exception. The Fourth Amendment only prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures. Warrantless searches are reasonable in several situations, including:
- Consent: If a suspect answers “yes” when an officer asks “Can I search your car?”, the officer can almost literally tear the car apart looking for any evidence of any contraband. The officer can even detain the suspect at the scene until a drug-sniffing dog or some other assistance arrives.
- Wellness Check: If a person is slumped over in a car, officers can approach the car to make sure the person is okay. Officers can also search the car, ostensibly to make sure the person is okay, but really to find evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
- Search Incident to Arrest: Until recently, officers could “arrest” a person for speeding or some other minor offense and then tear the car apart. Recently, however, the Supreme Court has limited these searches to weapons pat-downs.
Other common exceptions include the automobile exception, which the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on sometime in 2018.
Contact Aggressive Lawyers
Drug and other possession cases often involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.