The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protect Americans and Texans from unreasonable searches and seizures performed in the course of a criminal investigation. Generally, evidence that has been seized by law enforcement in violation of the Fourth Amendment cannot be admitted in a criminal prosecution. This exclusionary rule encourages law enforcement officers to follow the constitution or else risk losing the opportunity to obtain a conviction for criminal conduct. There are exceptions to the Fourth Amendment, and it is possible for a defendant to be convicted upon evidence that was found after an illegal and unconstitutional search. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently reversed a lower appellate decision that had thrown out a man’s conviction for possession of methamphetamine based on an illegal search.
The defendant in the recently decided appeal was stopped by law enforcement for failing to have a valid registration for his vehicle. After the stop, the officer attempted to perform an investigative “pat-down” of the defendant, at which point the defendant resisted the officer. Based on the defendant’s resisting the search, he was placed under arrest, and methamphetamine was found at the arrest scene. The defendant was charged with drug possession. Before trial, the defendant attempted to suppress the drug evidence found at the scene of the arrest, arguing that the “pat-down” was not a constitutional search.
The trial court agreed that the search was not legal, however, they rejected the defendant’s motion nonetheless, determining that the defendant’s unlawful conduct of resisting the search was an independent crime that resulted in the drugs being seized.
The defendant appealed the trial court ruling to the intermediate appellate court, where the ruling was reversed. The appellate court ruled that the defendant’s conduct in resisting the search was an expected response to an illegal search, and therefore any evidence found as a result of that search must be excluded. The prosecutors appealed the intermediate appellate ruling to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, successfully arguing that resisting even an illegal search is a separate crime under Texas law and that the drugs were found incident to the commision of that crime, making them admissible regardless of the legality of the initial search. As a result of the high-court ruling, the defendant will be required to serve his sentence.
Retaining a Lawyer to Fight Texas Drug Charges
If you or someone close to you has been arrested or charged with drug possession in Texas, the consequences of a conviction can be severe and life-altering. Law enforcement officers in the state routinely violate Texans’ constitutional rights while attempting to do their jobs, and Texas courts are not always sympathetic to defendants asserting their rights. Although fighting drug charges can be an uphill battle, the right criminal attorney can make a big difference. The experienced criminal defense attorneys with Guest and Gray know how to prevent illegally obtained evidence from being used in prosecutions, and we understand the factors that judges in the state evaluate when addressing suppression motions. If you’ve been accused of a crime, give us a call to start working on your defense. Contact our offices at 972-564-4644 and schedule a free consultation today.