In many cases, simple traffic citations lead to drug possession and drug trafficking arrests. Last week, police officers from the Lee County Sheriff's Department stopped a car traveling northbound on I-75, near Fort Myers, Florida. The police stopped the driver of a 2001 SUV for having illegal window tints on the front a back windows. Miami criminal defense lawyers that represent individuals charged with drug possession and drug trafficking charges can share many stories of clients being charged with serious drug related offenses that occurred as a result of a what amounted to a simple traffic stop. In this case, three people were present in the vehicle at the time of the stop. Upon making contact with the driver, officers noticed a strong smell of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. A K-9 dog was summoned to the scene and alerted to the presence of illegal narcotics within the vehicle.
Anyone stopped for a traffic violation should know that a police officer conducting the stop does not have the right to search an occupant of the vehicle or the vehicle itself unless he or she has probable cause to believe that a person is in possession of an illegal substance or the vehicle itself contains illegal contraband. A law enforcement officers can establish probable cause by several means. The driver or passenger in the vehicle can admit that he or she possesses an illegal substance or that an illegal substance is present in the vehicle. Statements of this nature can provide the police with the probable cause to search an occupant or the vehicle itself. Police can also establish probable cause if they smell an illegal substance such as marijuana coming from the vehicle. K-9 units can be used to establish probable cause if specially trained narcotics dogs alert to an occupant of the vehicle or to the vehicle itself.
After the K-9 alerted to the vehicle, the search revealed a large quantity of marijuana, ecstasy based amphetamine powder and nitrous oxide gas. All three defendants were arrested for possession of marijuana more than 20 grams, one count of trafficking in phenethylamines, possession of nitrous oxide and possession of drug paraphernalia. The only serious charge is the drug trafficking offense which carries a three-year minimum mandatory sentence. While the defendants are facing serious charges, it remains to be seen if the state can actually prove the charges. It is important to know where the drugs were found and who was the owner of the vehicle. To prevail in ths case, the state must be able to prove that the individuals arrested in this case had knowledge that the vehicle contained the illegal substances. Of course, these facts become less important if any those arrested provided confessions regarding the drugs.
There are useful tips that should be taken away from the article. First, never transport or do drugs in a vehicle. If the police have any idea criminal activity of this kind is taken place, they will not need to obtain a warrant to conduct a search, because unlike a home or a residence, the automobile exception to the warrant requirement will allow for an almost immediate search of a vehicle. Secondly, unless you are absolutely sure, never consent to the search of vehicle as the police may find something you forgot about or that you did not even know you had in the vehicle. Never, give a statement to law enforcement, as confessions only further damage the ability to defend a criminal case. Be pleasant, but request the presence of a lawyer at the time of questioning. While this will aggravate the investigating officer, the only person you should talk to is the lawyer you eventually hire to defend your case.
Traffic Stop Leads to Three Arrests on Drug-Related Charges, Cape Coral Daily Breeze.com, March 24, 2011.