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Drug charges are leveled against two men sought on warrants

When police officers accompany child welfare workers to check out the well-being of a child, may they search the home? May they arrest the occupants on drug charges? The answer may depend on a number of factors under New Hampshire and federal law.

If the officers are on the premises legally, then the general rule is that they can conduct a limited search based on what they may see in plain sight. There are hundreds of cases on the issue of what may or may not be in plain sight, so that become a very fact-intensive issue for defense counsel to probe.  A case with similar facts occurred recently in Concord when police accompanied social workers into a home to see about a child.

Instead of reporting on the welfare of the child, authorities stated that they arrested two men on the premises who were wanted on outstanding warrants unrelated to drugs. Police say also that they found dangerous chemical and evidence of a meth lab being operated. Because the purpose of the entrance to the home seems to have disappeared from the story, there is at least some suspicion that this may have been a pretextual search that was intending to look for drugs in the first place.

It is also curious how the two men were arrested on warrants when the purpose of the visit was to examine one or more children. Certainly, it would not be proper for the officers to accompany a social worker to check on a child and then start a wholesale interrogation of everyone on the premises for drugs or other crimes. In addition, the officers have announced that they are looking into whether there was a meth lab on the premises.

If they did not see the equipment and/or chemicals in plain sight, they would have no legal right to conduct an investigation and initiate drug charges. In addition, the press report makes no mention of a search warrant being obtained under New Hampshire or federal law at any time. That leaves another wide area of inquiry into the legality and propriety of the law enforcement procedures used.

Source: seacoastline.com, "Concord police investigate possible meth lab, arrest 2 men", July 2, 2016

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