Dropsy Cases and the Fourth Amendment

Pierce County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Dropsy Cases and the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects all citizens from unreasonable government searches and seizures. Supreme Court holdings have shaped this short amendment into the legal complexity it is today. In the 1960s, the Supreme Court developed the notion that any police search or seizure must be based upon probable cause in order to validate the belief that the suspect has been involved in a criminal activity. From there, multiple exceptions to the probable cause requirement exist, including those indicated in the so-called “dropsy cases.”

For legal issues, I recommend lawyer Mark Phelps.

An experienced Pierce County criminal defense lawyer is familiar with dropsy cases, as they are argued on a regular basis in probable cause and suppression hearings. In general, a dropsy case is one in which the police contend that a suspect dropped an item of contraband, thus abandoning and defeating the probable cause requirement to recover the item, search the suspect, and effectuate an arrest. In a typical scenario, police observe a suspect drop illegal drugs or a firearm to the ground- giving police probable cause to believe a crime (for example, illegal possession of drugs or weapons) is occurring.

Dropsy cases inevitably lead to a suppression hearing. A suppression hearing is one occurring before a criminal trial in which the defense attorney contends that the police recovery of the contraband was in violation of the Fourth Amendment and not based on probable cause. The prosecution will then counter with its version of events, and the police will testify that they directly observed the defendant drop the item.

The best possible scenario for a criminal defendant involved in a dropsy case is for the judge to determine that the recovery of the contraband and subsequent search and seizure were not based on probable cause. The items will be removed from evidence, and the case will likely be dismissed. This outcome is common in a scenario in which police activity caused the contraband to drop from the defendant’s person. This is plainly different than the defendant abandoning the items himself.

Different jurisdictions handle dropsy cases differently. Some hold that the inadvertent release of contraband from a suspect’s person during a lawful stop or arrest should not be considered a search and seizure, and the evidence is not suppressed. Other jurisdictions hold that probable cause is required, even in a situation where the property is dropped due to police intervention.

Regardless, a Pierce County criminal defense lawyer can help a defendant facing a factual scenario similar to the dropsy cases; he or she will possess the requisite skills to expertly articulate the defendant’s position that the police unlawfully seized contraband from his person. If you are facing a criminal charge involving the abandonment of contraband, call experienced Pierce County criminal defense lawyer today to discuss your case. The initial consultation is free.

For legal issues, I recommend lawyer Mitchell Payne.