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Three Most Common Search Warrant Exceptions in Drug Possession Cases


If you think the War on Drugs is over, think again. Drug possession arrests have increased significantly since 2015. Simple possession accounts for almost 90 percent of the drug arrests in Florida.

Typically, things happen so fast in these cases that police officers do not have search warrants. So, prosecutors must rely on a narrow search warrant exception. Some of the most common search warrant exceptions in drug possession cases are examined below.

Search and seizure issues are usually the most significant issues in these cases. If a Tampa drug crime lawyer convinces a judge to exclude the physical evidence, the entire case falls apart like a house of cards. The state cannot convict you of illegal drug possession if the state is unable to produce the substance in court.


Most drug arrests happen following traffic stops or disturbance calls about things like loud parties. Since this exception comes up in both vehicle and building searches, it’s probably one of the most commonly used ones in Hillsborough County drug possession cases.

Owners or apparent owners may give law enforcement officers consent to search their property. Let’s break down these requirements.

An owner is a record owner. An apparent owner is someone like a roommate whose name is not officially on the lease. Police officers may only ask these two people for consent. They cannot keep asking until someone in the car or house says “yes.”

Furthermore, consent is a voluntary, affirmative act. That’s much different from assent, which is basically bowing to police pressure. Additionally, if officers threaten to get a warrant unless the owner provides consent, the consent is not truly voluntary.

Owner consent always has limits. A house owner or renter usually cannot give consent to search a roommate’s bedroom. These individuals definitely cannot give consent to search something like a closed backpack on a bed.

Exigent Circumstances

If officers reasonably believe that someone might be in danger, they may enter a building without a warrant. While inside, they may seize any contraband they see in plain view. More on that below.

Prosecutors often try to use this exception if officers responded to a disturbance call and went into a house without a warrant.

These security sweeps are just that. Officers may look through the dwelling to make sure everyone is okay. Officers cannot look into every corner. They certainly cannot open dresser drawers or other closed containers.

Plain View

If officers were lawfully at a certain place at a certain time, they may seize contraband they see in plain view. Once again, let’s break down these requirements.

The plain view exception is unavailable if the traffic stop was illegal. Officers must have reasonable suspicion, which is essentially an evidence-based hunch, to detain motorists. DUI roadblocks are about the only exception to the reasonable suspicion requirement.

Partial plain view seizures, like the handle of a pistol protruding from underneath a seat, are in a grey area.

Reach Out to an Experienced Attorney

Warrantless drug seizures must meet strict legal requirements. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.


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