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Incidental search leads to discovery of alleged meth lab

Police are sometimes authorized to conduct a search incidental to a lawful arrest if they have reasonable grounds to believe that they will find evidence of criminal activity. A recent arrest and search of this nature in Lackawanna County led to discovery of an alleged laboratory for manufacturing methamphetamine and the possibility of the defendant being charged with one or more drug crimes.

Police arrived at the home of the suspect to arrest him on an unrelated domestic relations warrant. While in the man's home, the police noticed some items that they believed were (or could have been) used to manufacture meth. They called the Lackawanna County Drug Task Force and the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, and officials from these two agencies conducted a search of the property. Based on the results of that search, employees of the Pennsylvania State Police Clandestine Laboratory Response Team were called in to remove what were described as "meth materials" from the home.

The suspect is apparently in custody but has not been charged with any drug-related offense. According to the Deputy District Attorney in charge of the case, the investigation is continuing.

Incidental searches, like the one in this case, have prompted a great deal of litigation and judicial discussion. The central issue usually concerns whether the police actually had enough information to form an objectively reasonable belief that evidence of criminal activity would be found if a search were conducted. Anyone facing criminal charges arising out of a search conducted as an incident to a lawful arrest should seek advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Such advice can include an estimate of whether the search was lawful or not and whether evidence obtained thereby might be excluded from evidence. Moreover, a knowledgeable attorney can provide an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or an outright acquittal.

Source: Scranton Times-Tribune, "Officials search suspected meth lab in Mayfield," Jeff Horvath, April 21, 2016

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