Custom Drug Task Force essay paper sample
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Due to the nationwide increase in drug trafficking, more officers in the State of California have been deployed to the Drug Task Force (DTF). Their main mission is to curb the rising drug trade in the state in conjunction with the state police force. Officer Landonio has recently joined DTF. On one of his official duties, he is assigned together with three other officers the task to serve a search warrant regarding a stolen 50-inch plasma television set. Shortly after serving a search warrant, the three officers walk into the residence, and notice narcotics on the coffee table, both illegal and prescriptions. During the further search in the residence, the officers discover a kilogram of cocaine. Following the discovery, Officer Landonio has to take the correct steps according to the laws of California in relation to arrest warrants and confiscation of evidence. In addition, drug-related violence has been widely witnessed in the vicinity; hence, it is important for the officers to act in accordance with the law to ensure that the evidence is not destroyed or disappears in the process.
Although the search warrant only covers the search for the stolen plasma television, Officer Landonio, who is in the DTF has a mandate to take the narcotics. As the California state law stands, if a police officer comes across evidence of a crime, in this case it is a possession of illegal drugs, the officer can lawfully seize the unlisted items. Therefore, at this point, Officer Landonio should seize the narcotics since the law requires that as long as the officer is in the right place, he or she does not need a warrant to seize evidence or contraband.
However, Officer Landonio cannot take the cocaine as evidence because he will have contravened the residence right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. In a court of law, it could be argued that the officers indeed had a legal search warrant for a stolen plasma television that was suspected to be in the residence. However, it can be proved that the cocane discovered in the kitchen cabinet was a result of the police officers’ abandoning their search for a plasma television as they began looking for evidence of more drugs after noticing the narcotics on the coffee table.
It is quite clear that a television set could not be hidden in a kitchen cabinet; hence, the police officers were outside the scope of their search warrant. The suspects can suppress the cocaine as evidence, and the court is likely to find the evidence inadmissible since the police officers were not lawfully present when they recovered the cocaine. In this case, only the narcotics found on the coffee table are admissible. According to the California state laws, if evidence of a crime (in this case, drug possession) is found outside the scope of a legal search, Officer Landonio should stop the search and request for a secondary warrant to allow him to further search for more evidence.
The police officers were allowed to make a legal seizure of the prescribed and illegal narcotics found sitting on the table under the plain view doctrine by being lawfully present at the crime scene. Therefore, the narcotics would be used as evidence against the residence dwelling in the premises under the Californian Health and Safety Act of 1990, and charged with drug possession. In addition, since the seizure of the narcotics was lawful, Officer Landonio has the right to question the residents present during the search. The drugs were in plain view that means that the residents were aware of the drugs. The law does not permit police officers to frisk anyone present during the search unless, under reasonable suspicion that they might be dangerous or armed. Officer Landonio can only question the residents and seize the narcotics while requesting for the search and arrest warrant of drug possession charges (Beckett, Nyrop, Pfingst, & Bowen, 2005).
The case handled by Officer Landonio can result in multiple scenarios. Firstly, under the California Health and Safety Act of 19900, drug possession is a criminal offense if the prosecution can prove the following:
- possession of the narcotics;
- awareness of the presence of the narcotics (the prescribed and illegal narcotics were in plain view on the coffee table, hence the residences were aware of the drugs);
- knowledge of the nature of the substance and character( according to an interview conducted).
Secondly, the recovery of cocaine in the kitchen cabinet can be admissible since it was retrieved after a further research outside the scope of the search warrant.
It is in the occupants of the house best interests to follow the police officers at the discretion of the police. Due to the charges of resisting arrest may be laid on them, and this will be detrimental to their defense. If there are non-residents in the house, they will also be arrested with the charge of accessories to the drug possession, or intent buyers of the drugs.
The occupants of the house will be arrested on the basis of drug possession with the intent of distributing it (Beckett et al., 2005). To begin with, it is illegal to possess the drug as it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. The residence of the house can be imprisoned for up to three years. If the residences plead guilty for possession, they may avoid a jail term, especially if there are no previous arrests. It is not required for the owner of the house to have been selling the drugs in order to be charged with intent of distributing. Provided the prosecutor can show that the residents had the mental inclination to sell the drugs, or distribute it for free, then the charges can be tabled against the occupants of the house. Intent to distribute a narcotic carries heavier penalties especially if there are prior drug-related arrests. The sentence can go up to twenty years depending on the amount of drugs found and the past of a person found with the cocaine.