Following a months’ long investigation by undercover officers, multiple state, county, and local law enforcement agencies simultaneously executed search warrants at eight locations in Harnett County.
The inquiry began after authorities received multiple complaints about drug activity in the area. In the ensuing weeks and months, undercover officers successfully infiltrated several sites, including two in a rural area off Murchistontown Road. During the investigation, the officers purchased significant quantities of heroin, crack cocaine, and prescription drugs, as well as two illegal firearms. These sites consisted of camper-style trailers.
Officers also raided residences on Murchistontown Road, Bargin Lane, Clemons Lane, Obed Olive Road, N.C. 27 West, and Happy Court. Altogether, 32 people are facing 304 charges, including drug trafficking, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, maintaining a drug dwelling, and weapons violations.
Search Warrant Law
For much of the nation’s history, there were virtually no restrictions on state and local law enforcement agencies in the area of searches and seizures. That landscaped changed when the Supreme Court decided Mapp v. Ohio in 1961. In that case, officers asserted that they had a warrant to search Dolly Mapp’s residence for a bombing fugitive. The alleged “warrant” was lost and the aggressive officers seized a number of items unrelated to the original search, including betting slips, an unlicensed weapon, and pornographic materials (which were illegal in Ohio at the time).
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the police violated Ms. Mapp’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
To be legal, a search warrant must be based on probable cause. The probable cause affidavit generally comes from an officer who has personal knowledge of the facts it contains, but warrants are sometimes based on information obtained from a paid informant or an informant who has received a promise of immunity in exchange for testimony.
One famous example occurred in Dallas, Texas in 2001, after police executed warrants on some 50 individuals – most of whom were Mexican immigrants who spoke limited English. An informer, who received about $250,000, claimed the individuals were selling powder cocaine; laboratory tests later proved that the substance was common pool chalk.
The other major requirement is that the warrant specify the nature of the search. If officers have a warrant to look for illegal firearms in a backyard shed, they cannot search the living room for drugs.
Officers do not always need a warrant to seize evidence. Some of the more common exceptions include:
- Searches incident to lawful arrests;
- Evidence that is in “plain view;”
- Stop and frisk based on reasonable suspicion; and
- Automobile searches.
The law in this area is essentially a pendulum that swings back and forth, because sometimes the exceptions swallow the rule.
Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorneys
Everyone must follow the rules in a criminal investigation and prosecution, and that includes police officers. For a confidential consultation with assertive defense attorneys in Charlotte, contact Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Convenient payment plans are available.
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.