4th Amendments Rights in Drug Cases in Georgia

What are the 4th Amendment rights that come into play in drug cases you defend in Georgia?

Typically on drug cases there’s always a search or seizure issue, and that relates back to the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment guarantees every citizen the right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

So, in a typical drug case, there’s three types of encounters with police that would give rise to a Fourth Amendment issue: a personal encounter, say someone walking down the street and being approached by the police; an encounter in a car with a traffic stop or something like that; or an encounter with the police at someone’s home. So, aside from some very narrow exceptions, for the police to search you they have to have a search warrant.

Now, if they don’t have a search warrant, there are some ways that they try to get around this. They try to ask for consent, they may bring a canine in if it’s a car, or they may conduct a search incident to an arrest for another crime. So for example if you have a traffic stop, they may phrase something like, “Do you mind if I look around the car?” And you’re thinking, “No, I don’t mind,” or you say, “No, that’s fine,” and what you don’t know is you’ve actually given consent and that means they can search the whole car. Or if it’s a traffic stop, they may ask you to wait or kind of keep you waiting and then bring a canine in to do an open-air sniff. In these cases, that may not be reasonable.

So what we have to do is make sure that whatever the conduct of the police, that they didn’t run afoul of the Fourth Amendment and constitute an unreasonable search or seizure. The way we enforce that is through evidence suppression.