Recently, police in White Plains arrested a man for marijuana possession after observing him smoking a cigar in a park at night. The New York man was with two other men in their twenties. Police observed the three men smoking, and went in to stop them when one began to urinate in public. Police claim that the defendant then dropped the cigar to the ground.
After a search, police claim that they found marijuana and cocaine on the defendant. He was charged with drug possession and released on an $800 bond.
In cases involving the search and seizure of evidence, such as this one, it is important to examine whether or not the search and seizure was conducted in a manner consistent with the Fourth Amendment. In order for a search and seizure of contraband to be legal, police must either have a warrant or the items in question must be within plain view, as they allege that it was in this case. Police generally may not search any area where the defendant has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Police may also feel pressure from residents living near the park worried about supposed illicit activities affecting their property values; such pressure can lead police to take aggressive action, sometimes out of any proportion to whatever municipal violation is alleged. Furthermore, they may also feel pressure to bend search-and-seizure rules as a result of this public perception
Defendants in drug possession cases have the legal right to contest the charges. A defendant may question witnesses, challenge the relevance or validity of evidence and question the constitutional validity of the search and seizure of the alleged contraband. Any defendant accused of drug possession is entitled to a vigorous criminal defense and is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Source: White Plains Daily Voice, “Man Charged with drug possession in White Plains,” Brian Donnelly, Feb. 14, 2013