It's a common occurrence in Philadelphia and other parts of the country for serious drug charges to come out of a routine traffic stop. If occupants have illegal drugs in the car, they could be facing the heavy penalties that come with drug charges.
Police said they recently arrested a Philadelphia man on drug charges after they found two pounds of marijuana in his vehicle. They apparently found the drugs in the center console of the vehicle after a traffic stop. Police also seized a handgun and $400 in cash from the vehicle. They said they expect the investigation to lead to more arrests.
The U.S. Constitution prohibits the police from engaging in "unreasonable" search and seizure, but there have been countless courtroom arguments over what counts as reasonable and what does not. Courts have settled on the idea that searches are not unreasonable when they occur in a place where the suspect has no reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, people walking down a public street, holding transparent plastic bags full of marijuana would have no reasonable expectation that they were keeping the bag's contents private. However, people keeping the same bag in a closet in their home would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Police would generally need a warrant to search the home and find the drugs in the closet.
As far as searches go, automobiles are somewhere in between a public place and a home closet. Police don't need a warrant to pull over a car if they see it run a red light or violate some other traffic law. Once they have pulled over the car, police have a limited right to search the car. However, police generally know the law of searches well, and they are very adept at getting access to concealed areas of the car if they don't see what they're looking for right away. For example, police will often casually ask the driver if they may search. When the driver consents, the search is considered reasonable.
Pennsylvania and federal laws punish drug crimes with harsh penalties. Philadelphia residents who have been charged with these offenses should understand their legal rights and the legal arguments that will help them build a strong defense strategy.
Source: The Neshoba Democrat. "Man faces felony drug charge after PD stop," May 1, 2013