There are a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. With respect to motor vehicles, there is an exception that was established by the United States Supreme Court in the 1925 case Carol v. United States. The motor vehicle exception allows an officer to search a vehicle without a search warrant as long the officer has probable cause to believe the evidence or contraband is located in the vehicle. The exception is based on the idea that there’s a lower expectation to privacy in motor vehicles. It’s important to consult a criminal attorney if you’ve been arrested and had your vehicle searched, during a routine traffic stop, to evaluate whether or not the officer followed the applicable case law to invoke the motor vehicle exception to the 4th Amendment.

With respect to the home, a warrantless search is more difficult to justify than a warrantless search of a vehicle. Probable cause, along with exigent circumstances, may justify a search or entry without a warrant. This is what’s known as the emergency doctrine. Exigent circumstances typically involve taking action to prevent loss of life, property or evidence, for example, extracting children who appear to be in danger within the home, extinguishing a fire or stopping the destruction of evidence.

If an officer searches your person, there are also a number of exceptions, but in most cases, when people have their bodies searched for drugs, that’s usually during what’s known as a search incident to arrest, which happens routinely when officers are arresting individuals for a crime that is separate and apart from possession of drugs.

Can A Passenger Be Charged If Drugs Are Discovered In The Vehicle?

Guilt by association is not a crime in Arizona, but there is something close to it. Arizona law makes a distinction between ownership and possession of drugs. You don’t have to own drugs to be guilty of possession of drugs. In addition, more than one person can possess drugs at the same time. By way of example, if you are driving a car and a person has drugs in their pocket and those drugs are known to you, it’s unlikely that you’ll be charged with possession of those drugs. You didn’t have access to them, you couldn’t exercise control over them, and in most cases, you denied knowing they were there.

On the other hand, if you are driving a car and there are 4 pounds of marijuana sitting in the trunk, and the inside of the vehicle smells like marijuana, the state could bring a case alleging that you constructively possessed the marijuana in the trunk alongside your driver. You both have to have knowledge and the ability to control the drugs. It’s important to consult a lawyer because many of these cases turn on the individual facts of each case as opposed to a broad-based law or interpretation of what possession actually is.

What Are The Penalties Associated With Drug-Related Convictions In Arizona?

For purposes of this question, we’ll evaluate the marijuana laws in Arizona and how they punish illegal possession, sale, distribution and intent to distribute differently. The penalties for marijuana possession are determined by several factors, including the weight of the marijuana possessed. The statutes divide penalties into three categories: Possession of under 2 pounds of marijuana can be a Class VI felony that’s not for personal use, a Class IV felony if it’s not for sale, a Class V felony if it’s personally produced and a Class III felony if it’s transferred or imported into Arizona.

If the amount is 2 to 4 pounds of marijuana, it can be classified as a felony for personal use, a Class III felony for sale, a Class IV felony if it’s personally produced and a Class II felony if it’s transported or imported into Arizona. Finally, if the amount possessed is 4 pounds or more of marijuana, it can be a Class IV felony if it’s for personal use, a Class II felony if it’s for sale, a Class III felony if it’s personally produced, and a class II felony if it’s transported or imported into Arizona. The classification or the range of penalties that apply to each of these felonies will vary based on factors, such as your prior history, whether you have prior drug arrests or convictions and whether you’ve served time in the Arizona Department of Corrections or other prison facilities in the state.

For more information on Warrantless Searches For Drugs, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (602) 794-4480 today.