CAN COPS SEARCH HOUSE BASED ON ARRESTED PERSON’S WORD?

Q. Can the police search your house based on a person saying that you have something illegal in it? A car was being searched due to an attempted drug sale. Three people were in the car and they found a small amount of heroin. The driver, which is a user, had paraphernalia on her person and when she got arrested she told the police that the other two people who were in the car were drug dealers and told the police where they lived. The police searched their residence and found illegal possessions. Is it legal for the police to search their house based off a scared, user’s statement?

A. Great question! Search and seizure law is complicated and tricky. We defense attorneys start with the premise that every search of a dwelling must be done by warrant. This is what the PA and US Constitutions say. However, there are many exceptions and the law is always changing. In your situation it comes down to how reliable was the source of the information (the user who was arrested) and how reliable was it that after her information was given, drugs would be found in the residence at the time they searched it. The real issue is whether or not this witness was credible, and if not entirely credible, was there other corroborating evidence to establish her as credible? Credible enough to search a residence without a warrant? I am not so sure about that. I don’t know all the facts, but I think you should meet with an attorney who is good with suppression/search and seizure law to look closely at the facts. From this limited information it sounds like the search could be challenged. Make sure you have an attorney at your preliminary hearing and have the testimony recorded.