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Seeing the red and blue flashing lights in your rearview mirror can be stressful. Not only are traffic stops frustrating, but they can also result in serious criminal charges.

However, when you are pulled over, you have rights. For example, you can say no if the authorities request to search your vehicle. You should use this right – even if you do not have anything to hide.

While this is true, do you know your public transit rights? Can the authorities search you and your personal property and press charges if they find drugs?

These are good questions and ones you need to know the answer to in case you find yourself in this situation. If you are charged with a drug crime, our Denver criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen J. Pisani, LLC, can help.

Related Article: How To Beat A Drug Trafficking Charge In Colorado

Public Transportation and Your Rights in Colorado

Tax dollars pay for public transit. It is also considered public property. While this is true, you can still refuse to be searched unless the officer has probable cause. This is a right given to you by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

This right means that authorities cannot search your property or person if they do not have probable cause. Also, if they search you without probable cause, it is considered an “illegal search and seizure.” This evidence is not admissible in court.

When it comes to drug crimes in Colorado, the type of substance and amount you have in your possession is the main source of evidence used during a criminal trial. This means if the drugs have been seized by the authorities illegally, the charges against you will (likely) be dismissed.

Related Article: Denver Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains: Denver’s Drug Laws

How the Fourth Amendment Applies to Situations When You Are on Public Transportation

When riding the bus or another source of public transportation, you have a legitimate expectation of privacy. This applies to your person and your personal belongings.

For example, if you have a clear or see-through bag holding an illicit substance, it is your “personal effects.” Because of this, it cannot be searched without probable cause. This situation does not apply to cases where the drugs are in the open and exposed.

If authorities see drugs in plain sight or if they have another reason to believe you possess drugs (disruptive behavior, odor, etc.), it is probable cause. They can legally search your person or belongings.

It is also possible to face drug charges if the police conduct a search under probable cause for some other crime, like theft.

What You Need to Know. You can legally say no if the police come onto the bus and request to search your belongings. While the situation may be intimidating, knowing your rights will ensure you exercise them in this situation.

Related Article: What Is a Level 1 Drug Felony in Colorado?

Public Transportation, Your Rights, and the Use of Drug Dogs in Colorado

It is not unusual to see working dogs at bus stations and airports. These dogs are specially trained to detect narcotics or explosives. The dogs can be used even if the police do not suspect anyone of possessing contraband.

The exception is once the train or bus has begun moving. At this point, it is not legally allowed to be stopped by a drug-sniffing dog. It is against the Fourth Amendment to delay a bus or another type of transit due to unreasonable suspicion. Therefore, you will typically see dogs working along the lines of passengers who are waiting to board or purchase a ticket.

Related Article: 3 Types of Drug Charges in Denver

What Happens if Authorities Find Drugs on You While on a Bus or Other Public Transportation?

You will probably be arrested if you are caught with drugs on a bus or other public transport in Colorado. While this is a stressful situation, it is recommended that you contact an experienced Denver criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. With the help of an attorney, you can begin to create a strong defense for the charges you are facing.

This is a powerful defense for drugs found because of illegal search and seizure. In most cases, a quality attorney can request for the charges against you to be dismissed.

However, there are other potential defenses to these charges, including the following:

  • You were not in control of the drugs. In drug charges, “control” refers to someone with physical and personal control over the item in question.
  • You did not know about the drugs. It is only illegal to possess drugs when you intentionally or knowingly have control of an illegal substance. The prosecution must prove that you knew the drugs were in your  possession.
  • The drugs were found through an illegal search. As mentioned above, if the police do not have probable cause, they cannot legally search you. If they do, anything they find is not admissible in court.
  • Entrapment by the police occurred. Entrapment is a situation where the police encourage you to commit a crime (this is not common with these cases, but worth mentioning).
  • The drugs were planted on you. Someone put the drugs on your person or in your belongings to result in a criminal charge.

Remember, criminal charges are serious, and the penalties for a conviction are often severe. Because of this, you must find and hire a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you are arrested.

Related Article: Most Common Drug Arrest in Denver

Potential Penalties for Drug Possession in Colorado

Unlawful drug possession in Colorado is typically charged as a level 1 drug misdemeanor. If convicted, this charge results in up to two years of probation and fines of up to $1,000.

However, suppose you have over four grams of a schedule I or II controlled substance. In that case, it is charged as a level 4 drug felony, which is more serious and carries more serious penalties. If convicted of this charge, you can face fines of $1,000 to $100,000, six months to one year in jail, and up to one year of parole.

Colorado law states that it is illegal for anyone to possess a controlled substance knowingly.

This law applies to possessing a substance for personal use or simple possession. It applies to all types of narcotics except marijuana.

It is important to note that the specific charges you face will depend on the type and quantity of the drug you are caught with.

Related Article: Prescription Drugs and Drug Charges in Denver 

Contact Our Denver Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help

If you are charged with a Colorado drug crime, you have rights. One right is to seek legal counsel. At the Law Offices of Stephen J. Pisani, LLC, we have years of experience handling drug cases in and around Denver and can help with your case.

The first step is to contact our office to schedule an initial consultation. We will learn about your case and the charges you are facing. Our legal team will begin working to build a solid defense for the charges you are facing.

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