When police enter someone's residence with a valid arrest warrant, they may make a limited search based on what they see in plain view. The New York State Police arrested two men and a woman on drug charges recently when they went to a residence in Plattsburgh to attempt to find an individual who was the subject of an existing arrest warrant. Police entered the premises and while there allegedly found needles, Sudafed, ammonium nitrate and other precursors to methamphetamine on a table.
They charged the occupants with unlawful meth manufacture, marijuana possession, drug paraphernalia, and several counts of possession of a controlled substance. When illegal contraband is found is plain view that will justify a more extended search. It is not known precisely where the precursor items were other than the allegation by police that they were "on a table."
If the items were covered or hidden, it would arguably be illegal for police to exercise the authority to find contraband based on mere suspicion. Another issue that arises is that the residence that the police entered was not the residence of the man identified in the arrest warrant. The defense may be able to argue that the police had no good reason to enter the home looking for a non-resident. Such actions must be judged based on what the police knew prior to entering the residence, and not on what or who was found after-the-fact.
Additionally, the drug charges pertaining to manufacturing under New York law may be defensible, depending on the quantity and nature of the so-called precursor items found. With possession of ingredients that would not create the finished product, a charge of manufacture could be argued to be invalid. Furthermore, a blanket charge of manufacture against all three persons found inside may be unsupportable if the facts indicate that one or more of them were not involved in any alleged manufacturing process.
Source: wptz.com, "Three charged with making meth", Oct. 21, 2014