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Dealing with a drug arrest

A person's behavior during an arrest can determine whether a person is ultimately convicted of drug offenses. Citizens can protect their constitutional rights and lower the chances that drug charges will have long-term consequences.

Police must obtain a search warrant before they undertake a privacy-invading search. However, any illegal material that can be plainly seen from a non-intrusive location may be confiscated and lead to an arrest and a search warrant. A "roach" left in an ashtray, a pipe or baggie on a coffee table or marijuana being smoked in public are mistakes that can lead to an arrest.

Individuals may also exercise their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures by refusing to consent to a search. Police often ask for consent if they believe there is insufficient evidence for a search warrant or do not want to undergo the inconvenience of undergoing that process. If a person does not consent to a search, police must release them or attempt to obtain a warrant. This does not give them grounds to further detain a suspect.

A person may also end a police encounter unless they were arrested or detained under police custody. If it is unclear whether a person may leave, they should ask the police if they are under arrest or detained. If the answer is no, they can leave.

Police can arrest a person if there is reasonable suspicion that they are involved in criminal activity. Police must be able to later provide an explanation to a judge that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the suspect was involved in criminal activity. Police may also frisk or pat down a person if they reasonably believe that they are armed, but may only reach into pockets if they pat something that feels like a weapon.

If arrested, a person can refuse to answer any questions. Anything said to police, reporters, cell mates or friends may be used as evidence. It is important to never be hostile or physically resist. A person should verbally object if law enforcement officials conduct a warrantless search or detain them.

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