Drug charges can result from a number of different incidents. A sting, a routine traffic stop or an investigation may lead you to be charged with possession or another drug-related crime. Typically, to file such charges, law enforcement will perform a search and seizure to collect evidence against you. This practice, though typical, is controversial–and it may be unfairly performed. According to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, police in New York City perform thousands of stop and frisk or search and seizure procedures every year. The legality of such interactions is worth questioning, though, and there are a few things you should know if you have been subject to a search.

Police should have warrant

Generally speaking, for charges to be valid, the search that precedes the charges must also be legally valid. This means that cops typically will need to have a warrant to carry out the search and seizure. This may be either an arrest or search warrant, and a judge within the jurisdiction should approve it. 

There should be probable cause

Law enforcement may also initiate a search and seizure on the grounds of probable cause. This means that if they identify some exigent indication of the commission of a crime, they may proceed with a search and collect any discovered evidence. Because of the ambiguity of probable cause, though, liberal interpretation may take place, as well as abuse of the system.

Evidence must be in plain view

Police may also take the liberty of performing a search and seizure if they see evidence of a crime that is in plain sight. This means that a traffic stop could result in drug charges if police see evidence of narcotics in the vehicle. Much like probable cause, however, the liberty afforded by this allowance may leave it susceptible to abuse.