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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 26806
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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A friend of mine was arrested in San Antonio, Texas. The arresting

Customer Question

A friend of mine was arrested in San Antonio, Texas. The arresting officers did not read him his Miranda rights after he was arrested for a 20 bag of cocaine. After he was arrested they drove him to several different crime scenes 3 that all involved cocaine arrests? He has been charged with a controlled substance felony. Under a gram. They put the bag of cocaine in an evidence bag at the second scene that he taken too. Is that legal?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 4 years ago.
Hi Jacustomer,

I don't have enough information here to know whether it's a very tough case or not. I can say, however, that if he was found in possession of cocaine, even if there was a violation of his Miranda rights, that doesn't mean much under these circumstances.

The average non-lawyer misunderstands what Miranda stand for and thinks they have a dismissable case if the officer never read them their rights. That's not true, unfortunately. Miranda, while important, has a much more limited holding. It stands only for the proposition that after a defendant has been placed under arrest, he does not have to submit to police interrogation. He can say that he would rather wait until he has a lawyer, and refuse to answer questions about the incident.

In many cases -- perhaps this one, for all I know -- Miranda warnings never have to be read, because when the police see the crime go down right in front of them, they don't need to bother with interrogation. So Miranda isn't relevant at all in many cases, and when it is, the case won't get dismissed. Instead, if a judge decides at a pre-trial suppression hearing, that a defendant's Miranda rights have been violated, any statements he made as a result of that violation and/or any confession that he signed would not be admissible at his trial. Other than that, the case goes on with all other evidence intact.

There are other things that may be challengeable. I don't know from your facts why your friend was stopped and the circumstances of the search and the finding of the drug. Perhaps there will be something like that for your friend's lawyer to work with if he wants to try the case. In that instance, if his 4th Amendment rights were violated the drugs couldn't be used against him. No drugs = no drug possession = no case.

On the other hand, if this is a first offense, or at least a first felony offense and a defendant with a fairly clean sheet, he's likely lookiing at nothing worse than felony probation here, and if he has a drug dependency and wants to help himself, he could even wind up in a specialty program like Drug Treatment Court where, if he completes all court-mandated programs successfully, the case against him can be dismissed.

As to when the police bagged the evidence that may or may not be an issue. If they did something wrong, the state would be unable to show a proper chain of custody and then the drugs would not be admissible as evidence. But it's late in the case that such heariings are calendared, by which time the most favorable deal may be off the table. In any case, it's not precisely when the drugs were bagged, since the officers were out in the field but whether they can establish the chain of custody well enough so that the drugs on the DA's table will be admitted as the same drugs that were in your friend's possession.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Well, I still would like to know about the police shuttling my friend around to 3 different cocaine busts that were not on the way to jail?

Here are the specific parameters of what happened. My friend and his buddy were outside a strip club, they were eating tacos at their car. Police drove up. Asked what they were doing, they said eating something before we drive home. They confiscated their IDs first and ran them. My friend had no record. His buddy didn't either. The police said my friend looked suspicious because they said he was pacing and reaching into his pocket. Which was untrue. They instantly went into his pockets and searched him...but not anyone else's pockets. They then arrested him and took him for a ride to several cocaine drug bust scenes before taking him to jail.

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 4 years ago.
Hi Richard,

There is nothing that says that a police officer has to take an arrestee directly to the precinct or station and there is nothing in and of itself unlawful. If they used it as a way to get your friend talking and he made admissions that could be used against him, that could be challenged as part of the Miranda analysis. If the police made other arrests and could have confused your friends drugs with someone else's arrested at scene 2 or 3, then the chain of custody could be challenged.

But none of what you are talking about will make the case immediately go away. The police saw the two people in front of a strip club. Something about that, (their ages maybe?) made the officer decide to make them move on. One may or may not have looked nervous, but this is what I said above. What that will get you is a hearing to see if his 4th Amendment rights are violated. (Search and seizure)

The US Supreme Court has said there is no black and white rule about when something is Constitutional. It has to be determined on a case--by-case basis at pre trial suppression heariings, such as what i talked about with Miranda and the drugs above. If your friend wants to go to trial on his case, his lawyer would move to have a hearing to see if the drugs and/any statement he may have made could be suppressed. The standard that the judge must apply at the hearing is what a reasonable police officer would do under all the circumstances. That, too, has been decreed by the US Supreme Court.

At such a hearing the DA would call the officers and he would tell the story of how he saw your friend, searched him, and brought him in, and the questions the DA asked him would be designed to make him look his most reasonable under the circumstances. When he was through it would be up to the defense attorney to cross examine the officer to make him look unreasonable enough to have violated the defendant's Constitutional rights. The drugs would be at the hearing, so the chain of custody could be explored there along with the search and seizure issues and, the Miranda issue.

After both sides rest, the judge would rule on the evidence. If he felt that the police were reasonable, he would find for the state and all of the evidence would come in against your friend. If he found that some or all of what the police did was UNreasonable, then some or all of the evidence could be kept out of the trial, which could possibly result in a dismissal.

How easy are these hearings to win? They are very difficult. The state doesn't have to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a hearing and not a trial. Traditionally, judges give great latitude to the judgment of police officers out in the field and they most often find them reasonable. Does that mean your friend will likely lose the hearing? Impossible to tell without seeing the discovery reading the complaint doing an investigation and speaking to the DA.

When he has his lawyer, he will be told the strengths and weaknesses of his case, as well as the up and down sides of any plea offers, and he will be armed to make an intelligent decision on his case.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

At what point can your lawyer ask for the dash camera footage?

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 4 years ago.

He can ask the DA for it once the DA has been assigned, and he will get it when discovery is turned over, if it exists. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because police have the equipment in their cars, they use it. Many prefer not to, as it cramps their style. But if it exists and your lawyer asks for it, the DA will get it for him.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have to feed the family be back momentarily to ask more questions. Thank you

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 4 years ago.
Hi Richard,

I'm on the east coast where it's now 11:30 PM. If you have another follow up and I am unable to respond to your question this evening I will do so in hte morning.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Ok Miss FranL I will let you sleep and wait for your response in the morning.

Expert:  Zoey_ JD replied 4 years ago.
Good idea. I was just about to log off when I saw your reply! You can leave it for me tonight if you like. Just wanted to warn you that I'm turning in and won't get to it for a bit.

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