In Pensacola and Florida, as well as throughout the entire country, we often hear stories in the news media about people’s homes being searched by law enforcement who discover all types of incriminating evidence. The majority of these stories, but certainly not all, involve the seizure of narcotics.
As we heard heard in Glenn Frey’s 1985 hit song Smuggler’s Blues: “I’m sorry it went down like this, someone had to lose, It’s the nature of the business, it’s the smuggler’s blues,” sooner or later, someone who chooses to distribute or sell narcotics is going to lose – it’s the nature of the business, they will be arrested and face, in most cases, a lengthy time in prison.
We have all heard “a man’s home is his castle.” In 1644, English jurist Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) was quoted as saying: ‘For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique tutissimum refugium’ (‘One’s home is the safest refuge for all’). However, there are exceptions to when a man or woman’s “castle doors” can be knocked down by the police, entered and searched without the permission of the owner of the castle.
In order to enter your home to begin a search, the police must either have the citizen’s “consent” or have probable cause to believe that the home contains evidence of a crime in order to obtain a warrant to search your home from “a neutral and detached magistrate judge.” (There are a few exceptions). Some officers know which judges are more inclined to issue a warrant than other judges when they make application for a warrant.
Often times when people are faced with police knocking asking at their door requesting they be allowed in, a surprisingly large percentage of people acquiesce and allow them in for fear if they refuse they may be bringing suspicion upon themselves or avoiding the inevitable – the police will come in anyway. However, a citizen has an absolute right not to allow law enforcement into their home if they do not have a warrant under most circumstances.
Probable cause to search for narcotics or drugs serving as a basis for a warrant is usually obtained in several manners. One, the police may obtain intelligence information from cooperating witnesses or informants who tell them there are drug transactions occurring within a citizen’s home. Some informants have provided information in the past that has been corroborated by the police in a later search that revealed the drugs the “reliable informant” told them about. A “reliable informant’s” information is considered more credible and trustworthy because of the fact they have provided reliable information in the past. However, if the informant is not a “reliable informant” used in the past, the police must have more information to corroborate or support the information provided by a citizen or an informant to obtain a search warrant. The police need additional “probable cause.”
Probable cause can be established in several ways. One of the most common is someone who is purchasing drugs from a dealer’s home gets arrested himself. Given the option of cooperating or or going to jail or prison, which the police will impress upon the arrested person is in their immediate future, whether true or not, many people choose to become cooperating witnesses. The police may then choose to place a wire or listening device on the person, provide them with marked money and then send the cooperating witness back to make a purchase of narcotics. The cooperating witness makes the purchase, sometimes obtains incriminating statements from the drug dealer on tape, and then leaves the house with the drugs purchased and reports back to the police giving them the narcotics sold by the dealer. Sometimes the police will send the same witness back several times to make multiple purchases therefore creating a basis for multiple sales transactions to be charged against the narcotics dealer. Sometimes arrests do not happen for weeks or months during the period of time the narcotics officers are making cases using the particular informant who may have had multiple sources to purchase narcotics on behalf of narcotics officers.
Often times the cooperating witness is someone that the dealer has known and trusted for years. Sometimes the cooperating witness may even be related to the dealer by blood. Sometime thereafter, the police use the information from the cooperating witness to establish probable cause to obtain a search warrant. They may find the “marked money” paid to the dealer by the witness, sometimes not. With good video and/or audio technology it is difficult for the narcotic dealer to refute that these transactions occurred.
Drug dealing, as any one knows, whether it is prescription medication or illicit drugs, including marijuana, is illegal in Florida and almost all places in the United States. People who choose to break the law and distribute or sell drugs, including marijuana, should know that it is extremely likely that sooner or later they will be arrested one day if they stay in the drug business long enough. Statistically, the majority of people arrested are fearful that they may go to jail or prison and hence will cooperate and do anything to keep from being locked up.
People who think they can distribute or sell drugs should heed Glen Frey’s advice — “it’s the politics of contraband, it’s the Smuggler’s Blues.” If a person sell drugs he or she is taking enormous risks of being arrested, and if they do get arrested, they likely may be locked up for a very long time.
See Pensacola Criminal Defense Attorney Jim Jenkins Website for any further information about these types of narcotics related crimes.