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Search and seizure leads to drug charges, sentencing

Recently, South Carolina has become a source state for illegal drugs. As a result, there have been more incidents of arrests and drug charges for growing or producing illegal drugs. These drugs include marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamines.

In order to discover that people are in possession of or producing these drugs, police often need to enter their personal property and conduct searches. However, police cannot just barge onto someone's property without first following a set of search and seizure rules, which are part of everyone's constitutional protections. For example, police must have probably cause -- which sometimes means a search warrant -- to enter a person's property and search for illegal activity. If the police do not have probable cause or they search beyond the scope of the search warrant, then any evidence they find could be kept from court.

One former South Carolina state trooper was recently sentenced after being arrested and charged with drug offenses. In this case, the police searched a five-acre property near Charleston in 2010. During the search, the police allegedly found more than 300 marijuana plants.

According to the investigators, the former trooper began growing marijuana at the plot in 2008. Police also allege that he transported marijuana in his police squad car. The man resigned from his position as a trooper in 2009.

After being charged, the trooper pled guilty to manufacturing and possessing with intent to distribute 100 or more marijuana plants in February.

On June 19, the former trooper was sentenced on these drug charges. He is sentenced to serve five years in a federal prison. Following the completion of his prison term is four additional years of supervised release.

While the news report does not address the search specifically, the judge in this case likely determined the search of personal property to be constitutional. However, not all searches like the one in this case are conducted legally. Anyone who has been accused of or charged with a drug-related crime should ensure that the search and seizure was properly conducted.

Source: WRDW-TV, "Ex-SC trooper sentenced in marijuana case," June 18, 2012

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