Paris Hilton Claims Illegal Search in Cocaine Bust

Posted August 30, 2010 in Criminal Law by Arthur Buono

Paris Hilton got busted Friday for cocaine possession in Las Vegas. Today her lawyer meets with the district attorney in an attempt to persuade him not to file charges. Her lawyer says the amount of cocaine was negligible, and it was found in a purse not belonging to her. We’re most interested in his claim police searched Paris Hilton illegally.

  • Paris Hilton detained, searched when driver stopped on drug suspicion
  • Exceptions to warrant requirement permit stops, arrests in certain situations
  • Searches of vehicles, drivers, passengers governed by more liberal standard


Cops Stop Vehicle, Arrest Hilton Without Warrant

The cops stopped Paris’s ride because they thought someone inside was smoking pot. To protect Paris’s privacy or gain some working space police then took her inside the Wynn Resort. Police discovered the cocaine while interrogating Paris at the Resort’s security offices. An unidentified source claims this violated police operating procedures and may be an illegal search.

Although the Constitution requires a warrant to search or arrest a person, several exceptions apply. First, police can briefly stop and question anyone they suspect of committing a crime. This is not considered an arrest or search. They can arrest and search a person if they have probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime. Although police say they brought Paris inside the hotel for her safety, this is almost certainly an arrest unless she consented to go inside. Interestingly, she claims the purse wasn’t hers. By doing so she lacks standing to suppress the cocaine seized from it.

There’s a special set of rules for stopping and searching vehicles, which may come in to play. If cops have reason to believe the driver has committed a crime, they usually can detain, question, and search the vehicle’s passengers too. They can also search any containers they find inside the car, like a purse. If it turns out Paris was using the purse that night, her claim to have been searched illegally might not matter at all. As you can see, search and seizure often presents opportunities for a good criminal lawyer to find problems in a criminal case.

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