According to Oklahoma’s News 9, a man and a woman were arrested and sent to the Oklahoma County Jail, facing charges of drug trafficking. The couple was checking into a Department of Corrections halfway house when the police searched each of them. During the search, the police reportedly found balloons containing more than 30 bags of heroin, totaling 21.5 grams, in the man’s boots.
Search and seizure by the police
One potential issue in this case is the circumstances under which these individuals were searched. In general, the police may engage in a reasonable search and seizure of a person without a search warrant, as long as the police have probable cause that they will find evidence of a crime on the person. However, this type of police search is not allowed if the individual has a “legitimate expectation of privacy” in the area being searched.
For example, if these individuals had simply left the balloons of heroin out on the front counter at the halfway house, it would stand to reason that they did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the search and seizure of the items, since they were in plain sight for anyone to see. In this case, though, since the balloons were reportedly inside one of the individual’s boots, the couple probably had a more legitimate expectation of privacy. The police may need to prove that they had additional reason to believe that they would find drugs on these individuals, in order to demonstrate that their search was reasonable.
The other complicating issue in this case is the fact that the individuals were checking into a halfway house when the search and seizure occurred. Depending on the circumstances leading up to their stay at the halfway house, and depending on whether or not they had already waived some of their rights in order to spend time at the halfway house, the police may have had a more plausible and permissible case for searching them.
Punishment for a drug offense
A final consideration has to do with the nature of the punishment. Particularly with drug offenses, a basic jail sentence may not address the root of the problem. Sometimes a jail sentence or fine may not tackle the underlying reasons that the individual was dealing with an illegal controlled substance in the first place. In certain cases, an individual who is facing this type of charge may be better served by being required to attend an addiction treatment program as a part of his or her sentence.
Protecting the rights of the accused
Drug charges are serious and, depending on the charge, can carry a potential of five years in prison, in addition to numerous fines and other penalties. Since the individuals searched at the halfway house were charged with drug trafficking, they may be subject to both federal laws and Oklahoma state laws.
Drug offenses in Oklahoma often result in significant jail or prison time for the convicted individual, even if it is the individual’s first offense. Anyone who is facing a drug possession or drug trafficking charge should contact an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in drug cases, in order to safeguard the individual’s rights.