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What happens if a drug search is illegal?

When police officers suspect that people have illegal drugs in their possession or have been using illegal drugs, they will often want to perform a search. This search may be of the person, the person's home or their car. However, police have limited powers when it comes to performing searches. In order to legally search, police must either obtain a search warrant from a judge or meet an exception to the warrant requirement.

There are times, however, when Louisiana police officers fail to follow these rules. They may perform searches when they did not properly obtain a search warrant or do not meet the requirements for a warrantless search. In these cases, people can face drug charges despite the illegal search.

Since the Constitution provides the protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, police face harsh consequences for breaking these rules. Under the exclusionary rule, evidence that is obtained in an illegal search is not admissible in court. This means that it cannot be used as evidence against a person facing drug charges.

Additionally, under a doctrine known as the "fruit of the poisonous tree" any additional evidence of illegal activity found in an illegal search is also inadmissible in court. Therefore, if an illegal search leads police to find evidence of other crimes -- like drug use or distribution - that additional evidence cannot be used against the person in court.

However, there are exceptions to these rules that could make the evidence admissible. Therefore, people in this situation should consider getting legal advice in order to determine if evidence gathered by police can be used against them in court.

Source: Findlaw, "Search and Seizure Law," accessed March 24, 2015

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