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Defining probable cause in drug cases

When an Ohio officer conducts a search for evidence related to a drug crime, there may be an issue as to whether the search was lawful. Generally, in order for a search to be lawful, the officer must have probable cause to conduct the search.

In many cases, an officer obtains a warrant before searching or seizing property. For an officer to obtain a warrant, he or she will have to sign an affidavit, basically, explaining that they have adequate reason to conduct the search. The judge will then look at the totality of the circumstances and if there is adequate cause, the judge will issue the warrant. The warrant must be specific as to where the search will be taking place and as to the specific items that will be taken.

But, an officer does not always have to have a warrant to search someone's property for drugs. The officer can conduct a search if he or she has probable cause to do so, even without a warrant. In other words, if the officer has a reasonable belief that a drug crime was committed in a certain area, or that the area contains evidence of a crime, he or she will be allowed to search the premises. The officer will also be allowed to search the premises, if they are given consent to do so by the property owner or person in charge.

They are also allowed to search an area if there is evidence of a crime within plain sight (e.g., drug paraphernalia on the back seat, visible through a car window). When a search and seizure of evidence occurs without probable cause, any drug crime evidence obtained during the search may be thrown out of the case.

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