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Criminal Procedure: Testing for Controlled Substances

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While on routine patrol, you notice a car with two people inside parked behind a business that has closed for the evening. You have recognized this to be a high-crime area that has had several burglaries recently. As you pull behind the car, you shine your spotlight on the vehicle and notice the passenger in the front seat leaning down between the seats. You order the individuals out of the car and place them both in handcuffs for protection. After frisking them for weapons, you approach the passenger side of the vehicle and notice a six-pack of beer on the front floorboard. As you move the carton, you find a small container of what appears to be a controlled substance. You conduct a preliminary field test, and the substance tests positive for cocaine.

- Did you have probable cause to seize the cocaine? Why or why not?
- Does the plain view doctrine apply in this case? Why or why not?
- What responsibility, if any, does the driver have as it relates to the seized evidence? Explain.
- In your own words, explain the concept of exigent circumstances.
- In your own words, explain an officer's need to obtain a search warrant to perform a search.
- What is the controlling constitutional issue involved in this scenario, and how does it apply? Explain.

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Solution Preview

Did you have probable cause to seize the cocaine? Why or why not?

Yes, because the area of the encounter was known to be a high crime area, officers had justification to be suspicious of a vehicle in a closed parking lot. The fact that the residential business was closed gives further validity to the stop because many states have explicit laws against loitering at businesses after closed hours. Therefore, the officer had probable cause to seize the cocaine after initially flashing the lights on the suspects and noticing further suspicious behavior that could have indicated the suspects reaching for a weapon in their car.

Does the plain view doctrine apply in this case? Why or why not?

Plain view does apply because the officer saw the evidence without entrance into the vehicle and it was in plain view, thus giving the officer reasonable suspicion to suspect that the substance was ...

Solution Summary

The expert examines the criminal procedures for testing of controlled substances.