Q: I was a passenger in a vehicle. We stopped to pump gas and I was in the store with the driver. When we came out of the store an officer called the driver over to him for an arrest warrant. The car was searched, and a syringe and 1 stamp bag were found. I was released. The driver is now claiming it was mine. Can I be charged? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Yes, you can be charged. Can you be convicted? It depends on the facts. Where contraband is found in a car that both occupants had access to, it is difficult for the Commonwealth to convict one of the occupants if both are denying. Him owning the car works in your favor. If the contraband was found in the glove box or in the consul, that works in your favor. If under your seat, that works in his favor. Consult with a criminal defense attorney and be prepared for your Preliminary Hearing.
Q: Police found three roaches, a clip and a pack of papers. Did they have a legal search? They were looking for someone and I thought I had to let them in. So, I let them come in, There was like five of them pounding on my door. They found the roaches in my ashtray, next to my bed. They charged me with possession of small amount and drug paraphernalia. I have a district justice hearing in two weeks and I am freaking out That was in July of 2014 and I just now got the charges.
A: Yes, they can take that long to charge you. If you let them in and the contraband was observed in plain view, you have a problem. However, I would review the entire case with a local criminal attorney who is adept in search and seizure law for a thorough opinion. Also, if you are a first offender, you can get out of this with no record. An attorney can advise you on this.
Q. Can I pursue probation without verdict? The house I was staying at was raided. I am a student who was living in the dorms last semester, had a lease signed for a house beginning June 1st. Between then I was living at my friend’s house, and also my girlfriend’s house. Found in the house that was raided was 7lbs of marijuana, Xanax, and five ounces MDMA. I was charged with everything possession of the three and intent to deliver marijuana and MDMA. The marijuana and Xansa was in a safe and was not mine. I had no contact with it at all. Three ounces of MDMA belonged to me. However, lab tests will confirm that it is not MDMA. I believe it will come up as a synthetic cathinone. A warrant is out for the owner of the marijuana and Xanax. I was told those charges will be dropped from me as soon as he confesses to owning them.
A. You need a lawyer. I would have an attorney evaluate the legality of the search and the law of possession as it applies to these specific facts. You may have viable legal defense issues that even if they may not guarantee a win down the road at trial, may push the DA to offer an acceptable deal. A deal that results in no conviction for you is the goal. As you may know, a drug conviction will stay on your criminal history forever and will result in a driver’s license suspension. It will require good old fashion legal work-fighting the case but simultaneously badgering the DA for a deal for kid with no criminal history. Probation Without Verdict could also be a possibility for you, but it will take a lot of legal work and not merely asking the DA or police for mercy.
Q. Can the police search your house based on a person saying that you have something illegal in it? A car was being searched due to an attempted drug sale. Three people were in the car and they found a small amount of heroin. The driver, which is a user, had paraphernalia on her person and when she got arrested she told the police that the other two people who were in the car were drug dealers and told the police where they lived. The police searched their residence and found illegal possessions. Is it legal for the police to search their house based off a scared, user’s statement?
A. Great question! Search and seizure law is complicated and tricky. We defense attorneys start with the premise that every search of a dwelling must be done by warrant. This is what the PA and US Constitutions say. However, there are many exceptions and the law is always changing. In your situation it comes down to how reliable was the source of the information (the user who was arrested) and how reliable was it that after her information was given, drugs would be found in the residence at the time they searched it. The real issue is whether or not this witness was credible, and if not entirely credible, was there other corroborating evidence to establish her as credible? Credible enough to search a residence without a warrant? I am not so sure about that. I don’t know all the facts, but I think you should meet with an attorney who is good with suppression/search and seizure law to look closely at the facts. From this limited information it sounds like the search could be challenged. Make sure you have an attorney at your preliminary hearing and have the testimony recorded.
Q: Me and some friends were caught smoking but after the fact so we were high but no evidence of weed. Then he pressures my other friend for consent to search the car and he did. But while doing that he went through my backpack found my visine and kept it. Then my other friend’s backpack was searched and the vial was discovered. I was free to go just without visine while my other friend was cuffed and drove to the station. What will my friend be charged with?
A: Your friend may have an illegal search issue and want to challenge the case. He would need to discuss the details and what is involved with a lawyer. As long as he is not charged with a felony possession with intent to deliver, he can probably receive a first time offender’s outcome, called Probation Without Verdict. If he accepts this, he is put on probation for a period of time, usually anywhere from 90 days to a year. If he doesn’t screw up in that period of probation, his arrest record will be expunged by the Commonwealth. There is also a chance for a withdrawal at the District Justice level if he completes a drug program, and if the DA and police are willing. An attorney can guide him through this.
Q. The cops showed up to my on campus dorm room while I was not there. My roommate called me and I came. They had already confiscated paraphernalia and a small amount of marijuana from my roommate. I arrived and was told that the officer would stay in my room until a warrant was made, leaving me with no choice but to consent to the search. They found under 30 grams and a small digital scale in my top drawer and have charged me with possession and a paraphernalia charge. Do I have any defenses? I told them that it was left there by someone who my roommate had let in earlier that day and I didn’t know who it was. Could I possibly claim unwitting or fleeting possession?
A. You should get an attorney, soon. I don’t know all the facts but if you want to fight it, you may have an illegal search defense. Again, an attorney would have to hear all the facts to assess whether there was a constitutional violation. The possible defense that the drugs did not belong to you even though they were found in your drawer, is a more difficult challenge. At this point you don’t even know what your roomate has said or will say. If you are a first time offender, you may get out of this without a record-that is good news. The bad news is, is that you may get booted off campus or from school altogether.