police searching manThis is the next post in my series on the handling of drug trafficking cases in Austin, Texas. My previous article discussed Texas’ penalties for drug trafficking. It is important for defendants to understand that the amount of time imposed will depend on the type of narcotics involved, the defendant’s prior criminal history, and more. Given that sentencing can be complex, it is strongly suggested that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you. In this article I will be discussing how search and seizure issues impact such cases. If you or a family member believe that your rights were violated then contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.

Fourth Amendment violations can result in narcotics being excluded from Austin drug trafficking cases

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits law enforcement from stopping an individual without “reasonable suspicion” that they are engaging in criminal activity. Also, the extent to which an individual or their property may be searched, upon such suspicion, is limited. Generally speaking, such searches are limited to what is necessary to ensure the safety of the law enforcement officer. If evidence is obtained in violation of these principles then it may possibly be excluded from court proceedings. In the context of a drug charge, the exclusion of the narcotics can mean a possible dismissal of the case.

The foregoing is best explained by way of example. Suppose an individual is driving down the street and is stopped for changing lanes without signaling. The officers have the individual step out of the car and pat him down. The individual seems nervous and, without his permission the officers search the inside of the car. They find a closed duffle bag in the back seat and open it. They find a large amount of heroin inside the duffle bag and arrest the individual for drug trafficking. Generally speaking the officers would not have had the right to open the bag without first obtaining a search warrant. It may be possible, therefore, to exclude the drugs from evidence. Austin residents must remember, however, that how the Court will rule in any given situation is always going to depend on the specific facts of a case.

The first step in excluding evidence from trial is to file a Motion with the Court

The first step in excluding illegally seized evidence is to file a motion with the court. This is a formal document in which defense counsel will state why the search violated the Fourth Amendment. Typically the Court will hold an evidentiary hearing at which the officers will testify. The Court will then issue its ruling. If the Motion is successful then the prosecution will not be permitted to introduce the drugs into evidence. If there are no other charges against the defendant, then this would lead to a dismissal of the case as a drug case cannot be proven without narcotics.

Search and seizure issues represent a complex area of law and it is important to retain an attorney who is experienced in handling such matters. I am Board Certified in Criminal Defense by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and have been practicing law since 1995. I am experienced in handling such issues and I strongly believe that everyone is entitled to a vigorous defense. Contact my office only or by telephone to speak with an Austin drug trafficking lawyer.

My office also serves the cities of Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander, and San Marcos, Texas.