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A Drug-Related Arrest and the Judicial Process

Interviewer: How does a drug-related arrest typically happen and then what happens from that point on?

Most Arrests Originate from a Traffic Stop

Brian Geno: The most common way people get caught with drugs is through a traffic stop. They’re in their car, they’re out in public, they do something on the road. Officer stops them and then starts to suspect. If it’s marijuana, there’s a strong odor and so they’ll smell that and they’ll start asking.

The Police Are Trained to Look for Signs of Drug Use and Know When to Escalate a Stop into a Drug Investigation

If it’s other drugs, sometimes there’s a clear cut sign maybe it’s the smell, maybe it’s the way they’re acting, maybe the officer sees something which he would typically find with drug use. Then he’ll start to take it to a new level. The first thing they’ll do is they’ll ask, “Have you been using …”

Before they ask that, they’ll say, “Who are you? Where are you going? Where are you coming from? How long have you been there?” Just some questions to see if you’re nervous, if you are coherent, if you’re doing anything unusual.

If they sense that you are acting unusual in any way, then they’ll start to ask more pointed questions like, “Do you have anything in here that you should tell me about? Anything legal? Do you want to allow me to search your car? Can I look in your trunk? How about that bag, can I look in that bag that’s on the front seat of your car? Why were your nervous?”

Developing Probable Cause

As they develop their case, they’ll get closer and closer to what’s called probable cause. That is the reason to arrest somebody and if they can develop what they think as probably cause—they will arrest you.

After an Arrest, You May Have to Post a Bond to Be Released

Once you’re arrested, they will search your car but they’ll ask you to admit what’s in there so that they don’t miss anything. Once they’ve made the arrest, then they’ll take you down to the police station where you’re booked and a magistrate sets your bond. Maybe the magistrate will agree that you should be released right then or maybe he’ll set a bond and you have to a bondsman to get out.

Aside from being in the car, if there is someone who knows what you’re doing or suspects what you’re doing, they’ll call the police about you and the police will come and investigate. For example, if a person was smoking marijuana and those around could tell.

Let’s say they’re in an apartment complex and the people on the floor can tell that there’s marijuana and they think they know where it’s coming from. They’ll call the police and the police will come and see if they can sense it.

The Police Will Ask to Search Wherever They Encounter You and Suspect Drug Use

Another scenario would be if you’re out in public and you just don’t look right. The drugs have had an effect on you and you look impaired. The police could just stop and talk to you. Those would be I would think the most common ways, but how they process it is the same, except that if you’re not in the car, they’ll be asking, “Can I search your apartment? Can I search your house? Can I search this space you’re in whatever that happens to be?” They want to get more invasive.