Search and seizure defenses should be examined in drug arrests

Undercover narcotics officers may set up sting operations around an alleged drug transaction. That effort often culminates in a search and seizure.

Yet as a criminal defense attorney knows, there are a myriad number of ways that a suspect’s constitutional rights might be violated during a search. In a recent example, a witness to a drug arrest video recorded the incident on his cellphone. The video shows officers approaching a 43-year-old suspect, applying a chokehold from behind, and pulling the man to the ground. Unfortunately, the suspect was also in poor health. Despite protests that he couldn’t breathe while being restrained on the ground, police did not release the man. The suspect died from the incident, and an autopsy confirmed that the police conduct had contributed to his death.

The police department responded with a statement that chokeholds were officially prohibited. Yet when a drug bust goes down in the field, there may not always be witnesses around to document the event. Consequently, allegations of improper police procedures may seem to come down to a suspect’s word against an officer’s.

Without an attorney, a criminal defendant might not utilize every available challenge to questionable police conduct. Fortunately, an experienced criminal defense attorney may have strategies for investigating all aspects of an arrest. If illegal search and seizure procedures were used, an attorney may be able to achieve the suppression of any tainted evidence. If prosecutors are not allowed to use the improperly obtained evidence, a criminal defendant may be able to achieve a much more favorable outcome at trial or have more leverage in plea-bargaining with prosecutors.

Source: The New York Times, “After Recording Eric Garner Chokehold, Ramsey Orta Gets Charged With Gun Possession,” J. David Goodman, Aug. 3, 2014