Sometimes a warrant of eviction may lead to drug charges. When authorities go out to conduct an eviction, they may see evidence of drug crimes when entering an apartment or home. This presents obvious problems for the residential tenant who has not only has lost his privacy right to have peaceful enjoyment of the premises, but who also then simultaneously loses other privacy rights and, indeed, may be arrested and incarcerated. That happened recently in a New York case where the two residents now find themselves evicted and also incarcerated for drug possession and manufacture charges.
In such circumstances, the procedure used by the police must be evaluated carefully by the defendant’s counsel to determine if there were constitutional violations against the person’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. If possible violations are discovered, a motion for suppression of evidence will be filed by defense counsel. A hearing is then scheduled before the trial court judge on the motion.
In such a hearing, the prosecution typically presents police witnesses who describe everything that happened leading to the arrests. The reasons for obtaining a search warrant will be described and will become the subject of intensive cross-examination by defense counsel. The step-by-step procedures used in obtaining the warrant will also be presented and extensively cross-examined.
The search may have been conducted without a warrant right away when the authorities entered the apartment and allegedly observed some contraband or illegal activity. They may have seen something arguably illegal which they say was in “plain sight.” However, the defendant can argue that, even when they see something in plain sight, they must stop and get a search warrant prior to beginning a search for drugs.
In this case, the circumstances of the eviction turning into a search are not described in early press reports. It may be that the police made the search only on general suspicion and did not get a warrant. Alternatively, they may have obtained a search warrant by providing erroneous information to an issuing magistrate. There are many potential areas for challenging the search and the drug possession and manufacture charges under New York and federal constitutional law. These will be revealed when defense counsel investigates the facts and circumstances involved.
Source: Watertown Daily Times, "Couple jailed following meth lab bust in Lisbon", , June 1, 2014