Just because individuals are arrested for drug charges does not mean that they will be convicted. Defendants are innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecutor has the burden to prove the defendant’s guilt. Sometimes, drug evidence is illegally obtained and may be suppressed. If critical evidence, such as cocaine in a drug prosecution, is suppressed, the defendant is not likely to be convicted.
Here’s an example of how evidence in drug related cases can be suppressed. A group of individuals are hanging outside a bar. They have had a few drinks and are being rowdy. A police officer drives by and sees that the group suddenly becomes very quiet. The police officer exits his vehicle and approaches the group. He sees an individual standing in the back of the group and starts to question him. The police officer then pats down the individual and feels a bulge in his back pocket that feels like a gun. The officer proceeds to conduct a search and reaches in the individual’s back pocket to remove the gun. The officer also finds a large wad of money and several baggies of meth in the pocket.
Pursuant to Philadelphia criminal law, a police officer can stop and frisk an individual if he has reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. During the stop, if there are reasons that give rise to probable cause that a crime was committed, then the police office can search the individual, i.e., reach into pockets.
In this situation, the weapon, money and drugs will most likely be suppressed because the police officer conducted an illegal stop. The circumstances did not give the police officer sufficient knowledge that criminal activity is afoot. The individual was hanging out with his friends outside a bar. The officer did not see any drug transactions, and the individual did not attempt to run away.
The situation would be different if the individual walked away as the police officer approached the group and if the police officer saw the individual reach in his pocket and throw something out as he was walking away. Those circumstances may give the officer reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, i.e., a drug sale transaction.