Eisenberg Law Madison Attorneys Explain Probable Cause
Madison Attorneys Explain Probable Cause For Drug Possession Arrests Most convictions for drug possession or drug trafficking come about due to a police officer’s search and seizure efforts. One key factor in these cases is whether or not the officer had “probable cause” to conduct the search in the first place. Under U.S. law, an officer can only conduct such searches if they have good reason to believe drugs are present. Otherwise, they are in violation of the U.S. Constitutional protections against unwarranted search and seizure. Our Madison attorneys take a look at what constitutes probable cause and when the courts may deny probable cause. Conducting The Search A recent case, State of Wisconsin v. Demario Derrick Foster, highlighted an example of when police officers do not have probable cause and it’s worth examining. Foster was on trial for multiple drug offenses and moved to suppress evidence by arguing that the officers lacked probable cause for the search they conducted of his person. The situation began with two informants who brought Foster to the attention of the local police. According to the informants, Foster kept a handgun and drugs on his person. Since Foster was previously convicted of felonies, this was illegal. A sting operation was conducted in which the informants purchased crack cocaine from Foster. The sting appeared to be a success. The informant returned with the purchase to police officers, which then led to the officers arresting and searching Foster. During the search, they found marijuana and cocaine on Foster. A Motion To Suppress Is Granted At trial, Foster’s attorneys moved to suppress the evidence gained during the search and seizure. This motion was denied by the circuit court, but was later granted by the court of appeals. The court agreed with Foster that the police did not have sufficient evidence to conduct a search because they had not personally observed the transaction taking place, rather, they only had the word of the informant to go on. As a result, the evidence was suppressed and Foster’s conviction reversed and remanded. This is a good example of how evidence obtained during a search and seizure can be suppressed. There was no direct confirmation by police that the transaction occurred. Without this confirmation, officers were relying on the statements of informants, which are not always considered reliable enough to support probable cause.