The law on drugs – police powers to search. Police can stop and search a person or vehicle for controlled drugs. The law on drugs says that if an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that a person is in possession of controlled drugs then they may be subjected to a search. This is covered in Section 23 Misuse of Drugs Act. It is referred to as a “section 23 search”.
The law on drugs says that this can be anywhere, not just in a public place, providing that the police are there lawfully. Lawfully means with permission or exercising some lawful power such as with a search warrant. The person’s demeanour may supply the officer with the requisite suspicion. If for instance, displaying signs of drug intoxication such as dilated pupils or bizarre and irrational behaviour.
The law on drugs allows the Police to apply for a search warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act when they suspect that controlled drugs are present on any premises. The search warrant allows them to enter premises which include people’s houses to search for drugs. It is usual for the police to force an entry to the premises when executing drugs search warrants, often causing damage. This is so the persons on the premises don’t have time to dispose of the drugs down the toilets or elsewhere. Police will then search and may seize anything that is drug-related. They call this drugs paraphernalia and includes such things as scales, deal lists, phones and money. Police will also note or even seize expensive items such as televisions and computers. This can be used to demonstrate that the occupant is living above their means. This can be evidence of drug supply and can also be used for a “Proceeds of Crime Act” application (POCA).
The law on drugs allows anyone in the premises to be searched by police, including people arriving at the address. Police do not have to compensate or repair the damage they cause even when no drugs are found.
People arrested for drugs offences will be interviewed by the police. Police will try to establish through questioning if any drugs seized are for personal use or supply. It is usually for people arrested for drug offences to be released without charge following interview. This allows the police time to test the drugs, examine phones, and make financial enquiries before making charging decisions. Expert police witnesses will provide valuations for drugs seized.