Fort Worth Drug Paraphernalia Lawyer
Drug paraphernalia can be anything that enables a person to ingest, use, or carry controlled substances or marijuana. It can sometimes be lawful items as well. If it is shown or if it looks like, the lawful item is actually being used to transport, store, use, or ingest a controlled substance, then that can be considered drug paraphernalia. It can include things like, roach clips, bongs, pipes, containers, especially containers that are used for hiding substances that you can get in head shops. If it does not have a controlled substance in it or marijuana in it and it is just paraphernalia, then that is a Class C misdemeanor. This drug offense in Fort Worth is the same level as a traffic ticket, which is punishable by up to $500 in fines, but no jail time.
Drug Searches in Drug Offense Cases
In a traffic stop situation, if the officer has lawfully stopped someone for a traffic violation and the officer sees contraband such as a controlled substance, then the officer can go ahead and seize it without a warrant. If the officer suspects that there is some type of controlled substance or marijuana and the officer has probable cause to believe that it is there, then the officer may be able to search without a warrant under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. Or if the person gives consent and you would be surprised how many times people will just, upon request of an officer, consent to a search of their automobile which they should always say no to.
A person should never consent to a search of the automobile even if they do not have anything illegal in the car; they probably will not like how rough the officers are with their search of the car and how they can tear the car apart just by looking for things. I have seen people who would be very upset with the way their cars are handled by officers searching through their cars. They should never consent. Absent exigent circumstances, absent consent, or probable cause such as seeing the controlled substance, more often, officers will claim that they smell the odor of marijuana and that they can then search the car without a warrant or consent. Otherwise, generally, they cannot search a car without a warrant or consent.
Inventory Procedure at a Traffic Stop
If the person is arrested for a traffic offense or for some other offense, then sometimes, police are allowed to search the car under what they call an inventory procedure. If the Police Department has an inventory policy for searching cars after a person has been arrested, then that may allow them to search the car without a warrant. Police frequently violate their own policy such as if the car is not impounded and towed, then there is no Police Department’s inventory policy which allows them to search the car. Basically, the policy is tied to the fact that the police are impounding and towing the car, and they are responsible for it.
The idea is that they can inventory the contents of the car so that they can be sure they know what is in there and that they can be sure that everything is returned to the owner when the car is retrieved, and that they do not get accused of stealing something from the car. They quite often violate their own policy, because they search a car under the supposed inventory policy exception when they do not actually tow or impound the car. They leave the car on the scene. That would be a violation of the law. There can be even exceptions to searching a car even under the inventory policy, such as, if they search the car and they find in the trunk some other locked container, they would not be allowed to search that locked box that they found inside the trunk without a warrant.
That is a securely locked item within the trunk, which they do not have an exception to search the contents without a written warrant. They would have to apply for a warrant giving probable cause upon which a neutral and detached magistrate could decide that there is probable cause to allow the search of that locked container. There can be limits even on their searches of cars that have been impounded under the inventory policy.
Can A Passenger In A Vehicle Be Charged If Drugs Are Discovered In The Car?
It happens a lot, quite frequently. There is a car that is stopped, there is more than one passenger, and there is a controlled substance or marijuana that is found in the car and the officer will search everybody for possession of that substance. That certainly can happen. The law requires there to be proof that a person, intentionally and knowingly possesses the controlled substance. There may be a lack of evidence to enable us to win a trial or keep the person from being convicted of the offense, but it may not keep the person from being arrested. Quite frequently, people are arrested because they were in a car that had controlled substances in it and even though they may not have been the one possessing it. Quite often, the driver of the car gets charged with possession of anything that is found in the car even though it may have been placed there by a passenger.