How Search and Seizure Laws Impact Marijuana Possession Cases In Virginia Beach

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in Drug Crimes | 0 comments

PoliceGarrett Law Group, PLC frequently represents individuals who have been arrested and charged with marijuana possession in Virginia Beach. In our last post we discussed why it is important for both visitors and local residents to be aware of Virginia’s conservative marijuana laws. In this post we will discuss what individuals need to know about search and seizure rights, and how these laws may benefit your case. We will also provide examples of cases that frequently lead to a person’s arrest.

Attorneys may be able to keep marijuana evidence from being introduced in Virginia courts due to violations of the Fourth Amendment

Drug possession cases can all be boiled down to a few key parts. When a client is arrested for marijuana possession, attorneys immediately look at 1) how the evidence was obtained, 2) if the client knowingly had possession of the substance, and 3) if the substance is actually what the officer believes it to be. The United States Constitution provides strict protection against the violation of citizens’ privacy. Attorneys are often able to file a motion to suppress evidence that has been obtained by officers who did not follow the Fourth Amendment’s rules of search and seizure.

Individuals who are stopped by a Virginia officer, either on the street or in their vehicle, are protected by the Fourth Amendment. An officer may not stop you unless he or she has “reasonable suspicion” that criminal activity is afoot. This suspicion may stem from the officer smelling a strong odor or visually observing drugs or drug paraphernalia. The officer may also base reasonable suspicion on the driver or other passengers in a car having blood shot eyes or showing other signs of being under the influence of cannabis. If the officer stops you without reasonable suspicion, and marijuana or other drugs are discovered, then the Fourth Amendment can be invoked to have the drugs excluded from the case which will lead to dismissal.

Another basis on which officers may search people in Virginia Beach is if consent is given for the officer to conduct the search. If you do not give consent then the officer will have to respect your wishes or risk having anything he finds thrown out of court. Even if you consent to the search, however, it may be possible to have the drugs excluded from Court. If consent was gained through duress or unreasonable means by the officer than the Fourth Amendment will have been violated. If you believe that you consented to a search because you had no other choice then you should contact an attorney immediately.

Marijuana possession charges frequently occur in Virginia due to the engagement of lesser crimes

The other major point individuals need to be aware of is that an officer has the right to pat you down prior to being placed inside of the squad car if you are arrested for any reason. This is the officer’s right to ensure their own safety. That means that if you are arrested for disorderly conduct, graffiti, vandalism, urinating in public, etc. and are found to have marijuana on your person, you can be charged with possession. Virginia Beach is known for its bars and nightlife; too often a night of partying gets out of control and results in long-term consequences.  The officer, however, may not search your person beyond what is necessary for the purposes of officer safety. If the search exceeds these bounds then evidence will possibly be excluded under the Fourth Amendment.

A final point for individuals not familiar with Virginia law to be aware is Virginia Beach does not take a relaxed view on marijuana usage. Virginia continues to see marijuana possession as a criminal offense even though many states have legalized pot use or do not actively attempt to “bust” users. If an officer visually observes a person smoking marijuana in public, smells smoke on them, or observes them to be high, they have cause to arrest that person. If you have been arrested for this offense, do not make the mistake of thinking it’s “just a little weed.” Contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. We also service Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, as well as in the surrounding counties of Northampton, Isle of Wight, York, and James City.

Your attorney will quickly attempt to have the charges against you dropped whenever possible, and may be able to prevent you from being charged. Contact the Garrett Law Group, PLC today.

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