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Police need to follow proper search procedures, or evidence can be excluded, P.1

On Wednesday, Philadelphia rapper Beanie Sigel-whose real name is Dwight Grant-was arrested on drug and gun possession charges. Grant was reportedly arrested during a traffic stop, during which police found prescription pills, marijuana, a gun and cash inside his vehicle.

Sources didn't note the reason police stopped Grant prior to his arrest. While this may seem like an insignificant point, it is not, especially in cases involving drug charges. In such cases, the way evidence is gathered can have a huge impact on prosecutors' ability to pursue charges successfully.

Police are required to follow specific procedures during traffic stops and vehicle searches. Failure to abide by those rules can result in beneficial consequences to a criminal defendant.

Police generally need to have a warrant to perform a search on a vehicle, but there are a number of exceptions. These exceptions include: when consent is given by an authorized person or somebody with apparent authority; when an object is in plain view and there is good reason to believe it is evidence of a crime; when there is a reasonable suspicion that a person in the vehicle may be armed; and when an arrest has been made and the arrestee is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment or it is reasonable to assume the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest.

With each these exceptions, though, specific limitations apply. Failure by police to follow these limitations is improper procedure, and can taint the validity of evidence gathered through the search.

In our next post, we'll take a look at the exclusionary rule and how it can work in a defense case to a defendant's benefit.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Rapper Beanie Sigel arrested for drug, gun possession: report," Piya Sinha-Roy, August 29, 2012

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