DBTC Law Firm


Making Bad Decisions Leads to More Bad Decisions: Meth Use Does Not Invalidate Consent to a Police Search.

Methamphetamine is an insidious drug that can cause serious turmoil in the lives of its users. That point is exemplified in the recent case of Dye v. State, 2018 Ark. App. 545 (Ark. App. 2018), in which a methamphetamine user consented to a police search of his house, while he was under the influence of the drug.

On the night at issue in that case, a police officer came across two vehicles on a road near an industrial park that was on private property. He was patrolling the area due to reports of trespassing on private property. After approaching the vehicles, the officer noticed an occupant with a hand full of cash and a black pouch full of loose baggies between the seats.

After additional patrol cars arrived, one of the occupants of the vehicles fled the scene on foot. When asked about where the fleeing person might have gone, the remaining person told the officers that the fleeing man was staying with him at his house. He consented to a search of the house, both verbally and in writing, and gave his key to the house to the officers. The officers later admitted that during his conversation with police, the man’s “speech was slurred, his eyes were glassy, and he was unsteady on this feet.” They concluded that he was under the influence of a narcotic. Despite the man’s condition at the time of his consent, the officers searched the home and within five minutes they discovered a shotgun, shotgun shells, spoon containing crystal methamphetamine, glass pipe, straws containing a powdery substance, and pit bull mix dog. Based upon the evidence, the man was subsequently convicted of possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The man appealed his conviction, arguing the consent obtained by the officers was invalid due to the man being under the influence of drugs at the time the consent was allegedly given. Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.1 puts the burden on the state to prove by clear and positive evidence that consent to a search was freely and voluntarily given and that there was no duress or coercion. In this case, both the trial court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals agreed that the state had met its burden, based upon the testimony of the officers that the man understood what was going on, consented to the search of his house, gave the officers his key to this house, and voluntarily advised the police about some of the items found in the house.

The man’s methamphetamine use not only subjected him to criminal prosecution, it also appears to have impacted his judgment to the point that he voluntarily gave the police the keys to his house and the evidence necessary to convict him. Some bad decisions, such as methamphetamine use, have a cascade effect that leads to more bad decisions. As appropriately stated in the pop-culture anti-drug television campaigns of the 1980s, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”