NFL Player Arrested for Illegal Handgun Possession at the Airport – Does he have an illegal search and seizure defense?
I have written in a countless number of blogs, articles, and books that a criminal charge can happen to anyone and at any time. While many believe that a criminal charge can’t happen to them given their station in life, this is simply not true. Our criminal defense law firm represents persons charged with crimes and offenses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We have defended business executives, lawyers, doctors, teachers, members of the clergy and professional athletes.
Recently, Jack Jones, a National Football League (NFL) player for the New England Patriots was arrested at Boston’s Airport for the illegal possession of a handgun. Airport security discovered the handgun when they searched his carryon luggage. While our law firm is not licensed in Massachusetts, the point of this blog is to answer the question as to possible defenses for this case.
How should your criminal defense lawyer handle your case involving the illegal possession of a handgun or illegal narcotic?
Whenever a person is charged with a possessory crime involving the illegal possession of a handgun, firearms, an illegal drug or narcotic (aka CDS-controlled dangerous substance) there are two main areas that we target from a defense standpoint—pre-trial illegal search and seizure and trial—actual and/or constructive possession.
In this particular case, it appears that the potential prosecution will be able to establish actual and constructive possession again Mr. Jones as there is no evidence to suggest that it was someone’s else bag or he did not have full control of the searched item. If this case proceeded to a criminal trial, it is very likely that the prosecution (district attorney) would establish that Jones committed this crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is evidentiary burden of proof in all criminal cases regardless of the jurisdiction in the United States.
Despite the strong evidence against Jones, the strongest defense lawyer tool isn’t a trial defense but a pre-trial defense focused on a person’s constitutional right under the 4th and 14th Amendment to the Constitution. In virtually all situations, warrantless searches are illegal but there are exceptions.
What are the most common exceptions to the search warrant requirement?
The most common exceptions to search warrants include the following situations:
- Searches performed based on police officer’s safety (aka – pat down/frisk)
- Inventory searches (impounded vehicles)
- Search Incident to Arrest
- Automobile (illegal in Pennsylvania but legal in New Jersey)
- Border Check Point
- Airport Searches
Were Jack Jones’ constitutional right against illegal search and seizure violated at the airport when security searched his luggage and found the handgun?
No. Mr. Jones’ constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment do not apply in this case because he, like all passengers, surrender practically all of their constitutional rights by consenting to search as a condition to enter the airport. If his criminal defense lawyer attempted to assert this right as a pre-trial defense it would likely fail. Jones is charged with at least two felony crimes. It appears that he has no prior criminal history. It is likely that his criminal defense lawyer can negotiate a plea to lesser charge or possibly a diversion disposition similar to Pennsylvania’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) or New Jersey’s Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI).
Jack Jones will likely receive a favorable plea deal or be admitted to a diversion program in which he will make himself eligible for an expungement. While he could face an NFL fine or suspension, this is much better than a life long criminal record.
If you’re charged with crime involving the illegal possession of handgun or firearm, it is important that your criminal defense attorney evaluate all possible scenarios, including non-trial dispositions in the form of a negotiated guilty plea or an open plea. If your attorney is not able to negotiate the proper plea offer, the only alternative is to proceed to trial.
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