Drug charges in Louisiana are often announced with great fanfare. They usually come in the form of a sheriff’s department press release or as the result of an interview with a police spokesperson. We are often told about a lengthy investigation, sometimes involving cooperation from various state and federal task forces that have specifically targeted the seeming proliferation of drug crimes in our state. Little is offered of the suspect’s point of view, except that which conforms to the police view. That discrepancy illustrates why the presumption of innocence is such an important legal doctrine.
However, Louisiana State Police recently announced two major drug busts that occurred a week apart on the same stretch of I-10 in West Baton Rouge Parish. No task forces were involved, and there is no claim that either incident was the result of a drug investigation. Rather, the arrests were said to be the result of simple traffic stops, one for driving left of center and the other for improper lane use and no seatbelt. From those relatively innocuous traffic stops, police claim to have seized 300 pounds of marijuana, followed by 12 kilos of cocaine.
On Nov. 12, police pulled over a 50-year-old man with a 26-year-old female passenger and 36-year-old male passenger. Police apparently requested permission to search the car. Permission was said to have initially been granted and then denied. Nevertheless, a police dog was summoned, purportedly alerting officers to the trunk, where 300 pounds of marijuana were allegedly seized. Less than a week later, on Nov. 18, police pulled over the 26-year-old woman who was a passenger in the first traffic stop. Police claim she consented to a search of the car, after which 12 kilos of cocaine were allegedly seized.
The total value of the drugs seized in both stops is claimed to be well over $800,000, and these arrests apparently happened without any police investigation or even reliance on any drug enforcement agency. Rather, they were the result of simple traffic stops, though the persons accused may have a different story to tell. Nevertheless, each accused individual may be facing an uphill battle. Each one must fight to ensure that all of their legal rights were and will be protected. Since the consequences for conviction are severe, these individuals will certainly want to prepare and present a vigorous legal defense that contests police claims in a meaningful and persuasive manner.
Source: wafb.com, “Troopers net 300 lbs. of marijuana & 12 kilos of cocaine,” Joshua Auzenne, Nov. 21, 2011