Law Enforcement Practices in Drug Cases
There are a number of ways that Prince William County law enforcement officers have been cracking down on drug offenses. One of the biggest ways is through the use of drug dogs. It is very common for someone to be pulled over for a routine traffic offense such as speeding or running a red light and while the first officer is writing the ticket, a second officer will pull up, who is part of the K-9 unit, and walk a drug dog around the vehicle.
If the drug dog alerts, then the police have the ability to search the vehicle. This is the case whether the officer independently has any reason to believe that there are drugs present. As long as the officer doesn’t detain the person any longer than it would have taken to write the traffic ticket, that is a legal search under the Fourth Amendment.
It is also very common for law enforcement to aggressively seek consent to search the vehicle. Of course, many people do not know they have the right to not consent to a search and do not understand that police are allowed to lie to them and trick them in order to get them to consent or incriminate themselves.
Of course, if law enforcement tells a person to get out of the vehicle and that they’re searching the vehicle, one has to comply with that. But short of that, the Fourth Amendment protects a person from unreasonable searches and seizures and law enforcement have to have either a search warrant or probably cause to conduct a search. So that’s another way that they’ve been cracking down.
Drug Charges Arising From Traffic Stops
It’s very common for Prince William law enforcement to search for drugs during traffic stops. There are couple of ways that they do this. One is that officers are trained to be able to smell things like marijuana and if they do smell them in the course of a traffic stop, then that will give them reasonable suspicion or probable cause to search the individual or individuals or the vehicle for drugs.
Another way that that happens during a traffic stop is that a drug dog is utilized.
The final way is that the officers are fairly aggressive about trying to get people to consent to searches of their vehicles. Individuals often think they have no choice but to consent to the search and, after they give their consent, something illegal is discovered. People should keep in mind that the Fourth Amendment protects them from having to do that. If the police tell you they’re going to search your car, of course you have to comply with that, but if they ask for your consent, there’s never any good reason to give that consent no matter what the officer may say.