Two police officers knock on your door. When you answer, you notice the officers are wearing bulletproof vests and have their hands on their weapons. They say they just want to “talk” with you. You step outside. The officers remove their hands from their guns.
The officer then says they received a report of marijuana smoke coming from your apartment. You reply there “might be a small amount of marijuana in the kitchen.” You also state that you keep weapons in the house. The officers ask for permission to search your apartment. You tell them to get a warrant.
The officers call the DA to get their warrant. Meanwhile, they decide to perform a “protective sweep” of your apartment for those weapons you mention. As they do so, they find that marijuana you said was in the kitchen. They also find pills that look like ecstasy.
The officers then get their search warrant. They recover a treasure trove of controlled substances from your apartment, including cocaine and LSD. You are placed under arrest for drug charges. At trial, you argue that the search of your apartment was illegal. The judge partly agrees, noting that the officers only obtained a search warrant for marijuana, not the other drugs. But the judge still allows the ecstasy pills into evidence since the officers saw those “in plain view” during the protective sweep. You decide to plead guilty to possession of the ecstasy pills and the judge sentences you to 10 years probation.
Defendant’s Own Statements Doomed Him
As you might have guessed by now, this is not a hypothetical scenario. It was taken from a recent decision by the Texas First District Court of Appeals here in Houston, Howard v. State. Although the real-life defendant did enter a guilty plea, he reserved his right to appeal the trial court’s decision to allow the ecstasy pills into evidence. The 1st District rejected the appeal. In doing so, the appeals court provided some important lessons for what not to do when the police suspect you of drug possession:
- The officers’ decision to knock on the defendant’s door and request to speak with him was perfectly legal. Unless a property owner posts a “No Trespassing” sign, police are permitted to enter the property without a warrant. Indeed, the officers do not even need probable cause or a “reasonable suspicion” of a crime to knock on your door.
- When the defendant admitted to the officers that there was marijuana in his kitchen, he was not under arrest or being detained. This meant the officers did not need to advise the defendant of his constitutional rights, i.e., give him a Miranda warning.
- Even if the “protective sweep” was an illegal overreach on the part of the officers, they did not rely on any evidence obtained during the sweep to justify their later search warrant. The officers already had “probable cause” for such a warrant based on the defendant’s own admission that marijuana was present.
Speak with a Houston Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
The most important lesson here is simple: Never speak to the police. If an officer knocks on your door, you do not have to answer their questions. And if you are placed under arrest for any reason, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Call (281) 280-0100.