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Arrest in North Carolina may have involved “plain view” doctrine

Drug possession arrests are quite common in North Carolina. However, our readers must remember that an arrest is not a conviction. There are many steps between an arrest and a conviction and, if there were any mistakes made by law enforcement officials or prosecutors, the validity of any given charge may be in question.

In a recent arrest reported in the news, constitutional concerns might come up, as it appears from the reports that the arrest in question involved the “plain view” doctrine. According to the reports, a 42-year-old woman was driving in Wayne County when she was stopped by law enforcement officials. The reports provided no details about why the traffic stop occurred.

When the sheriff deputies interacted with the female suspect, it was apparently at that time that the deputies reportedly observed drugs in the suspect’s vehicle. This is the type of situation when the “plain view” doctrine kicks in, as it is an exception to the general constitutional requirement that searches must be accompanied by an appropriate search warrant. In this case, after the deputies allegedly viewed illegal drugs in plain view, they proceeded to search the suspect’s vehicle. The reports state that they discovered meth and drug paraphernalia.

An analysis of whether or not an arrestee’s constitutional rights were violated should be part of the criminal defense strategy in every case, but particularly in drug-related cases which spur so much discussion about search and seizure requirements. If violations are found to have occurred, the case could be dismissed, or at least certain charges might be dismissed.