Imagine spending over a month in a jail cell for possession of laundry detergent. That is exactly what one Florida resident had to endure earlier this year.
The officer on duty attempted to pass off a large quantity of laundry soap as heroin, using it as evidence to initiate an arrest. This situation raises some important questions about your rights in an accusation as devastating as this one.
What led the officer to search the vehicle?
The detergent was inside the man’s van, where he was sleeping when an officer came to check it out. Reports of a suspicious vehicle prompted the investigation, and it was at this time that the officer discovered the supposed heroin.
Though the specific details of this incident are still unknown to the general public, you should be aware that no one can search the inside of your vehicle in the absence of probable cause. In this case, probable cause may have been valid if the officer saw the heroin-like substance from where he was standing. If there was no evidence to suggest that the man had committed a crime, however, it would have been within his rights to refuse the officer’s search request.
If the cop is asking for permission, it is likely that he or she does not have sufficient cause to look inside. You do not have to grant access if you do not want to.
What test did the officer claim to perform?
In addition to discovering the detergent, the officer insisted that a field test demonstrated that the substance was heroin. Because evidence later proved that it was detergent, the officer clearly lied in order to secure enough grounds for arrest.
It is easy to become overwhelmed in a situation like this and second guess what you know to be true. Though the man may have been sure that the detergent was not heroin, the falsified drug test may have been enough to instill doubt in his mind. He may have wondered if he had come into possession of it by mistake. This hesitance alone can often create the perception of guilt.
Though unfortunate, it is possible for police officers to make mistakes with traffic stops or unlawful searches. Whether these mistakes are due to neglect or malevolence, you can minimize the impact of the consequences by knowing your rights and fighting back when someone violates them.