The Fourth Amendment gives you the right to be free from illegal searches and seizures, because you have an expectation of privacy in certain places such as inside your home, in your vehicle, and items you carry on yourself. If police believe that you may have drugs on you, in your home, or in your vehicle, they may ask if you if they can search those places. The correct answer is always, "No."
If the police arrive at your home and request to search it, you may tell them "No." If you do not consent to a search, the police in most circumstances must obtain a search warrant first.
If the police stop your vehicle and request a search of your car, the answer again is "No." The police cannot search your car if you refuse their request, unless, they have probable cause.
If the police ask to search your pockets or purse, again the answer is "No." The police cannot execute a "Terry frisk" unless you are threatening the officer and they are honestly concerned for their safety.
Do Not Talk to the Police
If you are the subject of an investigation, the police are not your friends. They do not care about your freedom or criminal record. They care about one thing and one thing only: making the case. By cooperating with the police and "spilling the beans," you might as well be putting the handcuffs on your own wrists. The police will lie to get you to admit something, they will coerce you to consent to a search, and your safety is nothing but an afterthought if you agree to be an informant. To many police officers, their job isn't just another day at work - it's personal and for some an obsession.
Anything you say to the police is never "off the record." That is why we have Miranda rights. Keep in mind though, your Miranda rights only apply if you are under ARREST. Anything you say pre-arrest to a police officer can be used against you as evidence or to obtain a reason to search you, your vehicle, or home. Remember the term "loose lips sink ships." Choose your words very carefully.
Don't Throw Your Stash In the Trash
DON'T THROW YOUR STASH IN THE GARBAGE. If you decide to rid yourself of some contraband for whatever reason, once you place it in the garbage and on your sidewalk for pick up, you're putting it in the public realm. You do not have an expectation of privacy to your garbage at this point, because you are abandoning it by leaving it out in public for anyone to take. Someone that is unknowingly being investigated for drug possession, distribution, production, or trafficking will have the police rummaging through their garbage looking for drugs, drug paraphernalia, scales, etc. Any drugs you try to abandon in public is admissible against you in court. Which brings me to my next point...
The government cannot build a case against you unless they have evidence. One of the universal elements to a drug charge is "possession." It is not illegal to consume a drug, it is only illegal to possess it. The police cannot build a case against you unless you are in actual or constructive possession of a drug.
Actual possession means that the police find drugs on you. Constructive possession means that they find drugs within your physical reach or in a place where you have access like a car trunk. That is why if you and some buddies decide to smoke a joint on the sidewalk, and the police show up everyone can be charged with possession regardless who was actually holding the joint.
So, if the police come to search your home, car, boat, or person; eat it, flush it down the toilet, burn it, sink it, vaporize it, etc. But there are two rules to remember this: 1) Never do anything that could jeopardize your health or life and 2) don't get caught destroying it.
Do not be a jerk. Do not run from the police. Do not resist arrest. When you choose not to cooperate with the police or refuse a search, do so politely. This normally should help expedite your stop so you can be on your way. Additionally, depending on why you're stopped, do not run from the police and certainly do not resist arrest. Doing this may result in new charges that can be brought against you making a bad situation worse. Furthermore, if the police have a reasonable articulable suspicion to stop you and then you proceed to run or become violent, you will have given them probable cause to arrest you. Once you are arrested, the police may search you pursuant to that arrest for weapons or contraband. If you flee from the police in your vehicle, the police can do an inventory search of your vehicle if and when they impound it. Most employers or schools can tolerate someone that is busted for some pot, however, they're not going to look favorably upon someone that is violent.
Okay, I did what you said, but they searched my house/car/me and arrested me anyway?
Do not speak with the police and immediately invoke your right to counsel. Use the line, "I'm not say anything, I want an attorney." At this point the police MUST stop interrogating you and cannot later resume an interrogation. In the state of Georgia, you are entitled to a bond hearing within 72 hours, otherwise, the police must release you and you will eventually receive a notice for a court date. Keep in mind though a bond "hearing" does not entitle you to a bond amount you can afford to post. However, most attorneys such as myself know many bond companies that can assist you in posting bond or could make a legal argument in front of a judge for a reduced bond or a signature bond.
Once you are out of jail, contact an attorney to review your case. If you have thoroughly followed the advice in this guide, your rights were most likely violated and any seized contraband or statements made to the police may be suppressable and not admissible as evidence against you in court.
DO NOT ATTEMPT REPRESENTING YOURSELF: HIRE AN ATTORNEY, HIRE AN ATTORNEY, HIRE AN ATTORNEY
This guide is a very basic non-exhaustive list on how to protect your rights when confronted by the police. If this guide were to attempt covering every single situation and available legal remedy, it would probably be thousands of pages long and taught in law schools. With that said, hire a licensed criminal attorney in your jurisdiction to handle your case. While you are fully entitled to represent yourself, DO NOT. There is an old legal adage for those who represent themselves at a criminal trial: "A person who represents himself has a fool for a client." Practicing law isn't like trying to redecorate your living room by watching a few tips on TV. The stakes are much higher, and you need someone well versed in the procedural and substantive laws of your jurisdiction to represent you. If you cannot afford an attorney, you are legally entitled to the services of the public defender. If you are charged with a drug crime or any crime in Georgia, I would be happy to represent you.
Additional resources provided by the author
101 Ways to Beat a Marijuana Charge in Georgia by David E. Clark
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