Traffic stop yields arrests for felony drug charges

Traffic stops are a significant source of arrests for drug offenses. Some advocates accuse authorities of making traffic stops solely to obtain drug arrests. When a traffic stop is made in Louisiana, there must first be reasonable factual grounds for making the stop. Without reasonable grounds to stop the vehicle in the first place, the resulting drug charges will likely be dismissed when they get to court.

That kind of a scenario occurred recently when the Covington, Louisiana police arrested two people on drug charges after making a traffic stop of an SUV. News reports indicate that the police pulled over the vehicle because it was swerving. Police arrested both the male and female inside the SUV on a drug possession charge and also for possession of drug paraphernalia. The man, who was the driver, was also arrested for driving under suspension and improper lane use.

It was not immediately clear how the police discovered the paraphernalia and illegal drugs inside the car. Even if an initial traffic stop is justified, Louisiana and federal law require that there must be additional evidence to allow entrance into the motor vehicle to conduct a search. That's because people have a constitutional right in Louisiana and the rest of the country to be free from unreasonable searches with respect to their vehicles. One justification for a search after a valid traffic stop is where the police observe illegal items in plain view inside the vehicle.

If there is nothing in plain view, then a search is illegal absent other reasons to justify an intrusion. Another circumstance that validates a search is where the driver gives voluntary consent to the police to do it. In Louisiana, when drug charges rest on an unconstitutional search, the accused must request a hearing in which the court will decide whether or not to preclude the evidence. If the evidence from the search is thrown out, the charges may also be dismissed because there may be insufficient evidence to convict the accused.

Source: wlox.com, "Mississippi couple arrested in Louisiana meth possession case," Jan. 23, 2013

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