According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, in 2013 there were 1,552,432 state and local arrests for drug abuse violations in the United States. As elsewhere in the nation, illegal drugs are a major problem in Vanderburgh County. The illegal drug market is also a proven catalyst for other crimes, with drug-users accounting for many property crimes such as burglary and theft. Drug-sellers, in turn, are involved in a variety of violent crimes such as homicide and aggravated assault.
Further demonstrating the pervasive connection between illegal drugs and crime in our community, statistics from the National Institute of Justice show that, in every major category of criminal offenses, anywhere from nearly 60 percent to over 90 percent of arrestees tested positive for illegal drugs at the time they were detained.
In response to the enormity of this drug problem, many law enforcement divisions – including Vanderburgh Sheriff’s Department and the Evansville Police Department – have established specialized units to aid in the detection and arrest of traffickers and users. This specialized unit, known as the Joint Task Force, focuses upon the immediate investigation, charging, preparation, and trial of major drug trafficking and possession cases. The Joint Task Force is also responsible for forfeitures/seizures of property and weapons.
Recognizing this, Prosecutor Nick Hermann has made the prosecution of drug offenses a priority. Working closely with law enforcement throughout the County, Prosecutors assigned to the unit are well versed in Indiana’s search and seizure statutes and can provide immediate guidance to police officers dealing with these crimes. By working with police from the beginning, the Prosecutor’s Office ensures that cases are well prepared to withstand inevitable-and often deadly-motions to suppress.
In the majority of drug cases, once lab results have confirmed that the substance in question is an illegal one, the question for prosecutors is whether or not proper search and seizure methods were followed by the arresting officers. Direction from and training by prosecutors ensures that officers follow the proper procedures.