Last month, a Thief River Falls man walked out of the Pennington County Courthouse a free man after dodging drug charges that could have landed him in prison until 2023. The man challenged a warrantless search of his apartment that led to authorities discovering approximately 50 grams of methamphetamine, stating that the search violated his fourth amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.
A Minnesota appellate court agreed, ruling that the evidence found in Quentin Laurel Rasmussen’s possession while he was out on bond was not allowed. Without the evidence, prosecutors were forced to drop the first degree drug charges and the case was dismissed. Surprisingly, Rasmussen’s release from a previous drug case carried terms that allowed for random searches by officers without requiring probable cause, and it was under those terms that the search was performed. Minnesota courts have yet to decide if such terms are unconstitutional.
Like Rasmussen, many Minnesota residents facing drug charges are victims of breach of privacy rights due to searches that should have never been performed. Under the Constitution, police may only search an individual’s home, property or vehicle after proving probable cause and obtaining a warrant except under certain circumstances.
- If the individual in question gives his or her consent, officers can legally search their property.
- If something illegal is in plain view, an officer is entitled to conduct a search.
- It is legal to conduct a search if an officer feels that bystanders or evidence could be in danger of being harmed or destroyed.
- If an officer believes that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, a search can be performed without a warrant.
Although Illegal search and seizure is a common occurrence in many drug cases throughout the nation, it is not used in drug cases as often as it would be. St. Paul drug attorney Max Keller asserts that “individuals should familiarize themselves with Minnesota search and seizure laws and their rights under the fourth Amendment to better protect themselves from privacy violations”.