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Did police need warrant for drug search at Baton Rouge airport?

In a prosecution for drug offenses, the most important evidence is typically the drug itself. Without the drugs in evidence, it's often impossible for prosecutors to gain a conviction. That's why it's so important for the court to determine whether the police seized the evidence lawfully.

Recently, attorneys for a man who was arrested at Baton Rouge's Metro Airport and accused of carrying almost 72 pounds in cocaine aboard his private jet argued that the court should suppress the evidence of the drugs. The attorneys argued that the police had no warrant to search the plane and therefore that the search was unlawful.

According to court documents, federal agents became suspicious of the plane after they saw its unusual flight plan, which included a brief stop near the Texas-Mexico border, an area where drug smuggling is common. When the plane stopped to refuel in Baton Rouge on the way to Atlanta, federal agents said they asked the man's permission to search the plane. After an initial search found nothing unusual, the police said they saw a bag full of drugs through a window on the plane.

The U.S. Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. This means that police typically must have a warrant based upon probable cause before they can search a person's property. However, the warrant requirement has many exceptions. One important exception is consent: if the suspect genuinely consented to the search, a court will find that the search was not unreasonable. Another important exception occurs when evidence of a crime is in plain view of the police.

One of the first priorities in building a defense against drug charges is to examine the circumstances of the search and arrest. If the police did not have a warrant, one must determine whether any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement applied. If they didn't, the court may have to suppress the evidence.

The consequences of a conviction on federal drug charges are serious, and penalties can include long prison terms and harsh fines. It's important for all those accused of federal drug crimes in Louisiana to have the help of Louisiana attorneys with experience in building defenses in this type of case.

Source: The Advocate, "Attorneys claim police needed warrant to search plane at BR airport," Joe Gyan Jr., Feb. 3, 2014

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