Recently, police in Peekskill, New York, arrested and charged three people with drug-related offenses in three separate incidents. In the first incident, a 28-year-old woman allegedly sold phencyclidine drugs to undercover police officers, and was charged with felony drug possession and possession of a controlled substance. She was arrested after a police investigation lasting a year-and-a-half. The second arrest was that of a 24-year-old man who was found during the execution of an unrelated police arrest warrant. Police uncovered a semi-automatic handgun during his arrest, and the man was charged with criminal possession of a weapon, as well as the possession and sale of hallucinogenic drugs. The final arrest was that of a 42-year-old woman, and it came after a year-long police investigation into the sale of heroin. She was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance and sale of a controlled substance.
These cases highlight the immense amount of work that police must do to combat drug trafficking. Two of these arrests came out of investigations lasting a year or longer, during which police likely questioned informants, obtained warrants for surveillance and gathered evidence. They probably questioned witnesses, and processed any laboratory work done on fingerprints and body fluids. Arrests for drug possession can be the result of months or even years of hard investigatory work.
At multiple points during many drug cases -- and especially during particularly long investigations -- a defendant has the opportunity to exercise rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and the right to counsel. Police must obtain a valid search warrant in order to search and seize any contraband that is not within his or her plain view or is located in an area where the defendant would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Also, a defendant must be informed of his or her right to counsel before a confession is elicited by police.
Anyone accused of drug possession or drug trafficking is entitled to a strong criminal defense. In addition to questioning witnesses and challenging the admissibility of evidence, the defendant has the legal right to challenge the constitutionality of the search and seizure of the evidence as well as the admissibility of his or her confession when appropriate for a given case. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, defendants can often take steps to avoid a felony conviction.
Source: Peekskill Daily Voice, "Peekskill Police Charge Three On Felony Drug Charges," Art Cusano, March 27, 2013.