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Know your law #3

Recently I assisted someone who had been stopped at a traffic stop. When the police asked him to get out, panic struck. My client, let's call him Peter, was in fact carrying a small bag of drugs. In an unguarded moment, Peter tried to throw the bag away. But in vain, an officer saw Peter throw away the baggie and he was arrested on suspicion of violating the Opium Act.

At the police station, Peter was questioned by the police. Normally he would have been back outside within a few hours. After all, only a small amount of drugs was involved. Yet everything turned out differently. Indeed, during the interrogation Peter was asked if he objected to his home being searched. After some urging with remarks such as "Surely you have nothing to hide" and "otherwise we will arrange for a search warrant ourselves," Peter, assuming it was better for him to cooperate, agreed to the search. A significant amount of drugs was found at Peter's home, with which Peter had signed his own warrant.

The police are not allowed by law to enter a home just like that. Even if you have nothing to hide, you do not have to give a stranger permission to go through your personal belongings. The privacy that you can enjoy in your own home is regarded as a great asset by the rule of law. What happens in your own home is nobody's business.

Back to Peter. from experience, I know that a magistrate judge will almost never grant a "search warrant" for one small amount of drugs. With Peter's consent, however, the police no longer needed a warrant from the judge and the officers could search Peter's entire home at their leisure.

Had Peter not given permission, his home would never have been searched and he would have been outside within a few hours.

Therefore, my advice is: Never give permission to search your home before you have had the opportunity to consult an attorney. Even if you have nothing to hide!

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