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Florida traffic stop leads to drug charges


Drug trafficking charges carry serious consequences in Florida. If convicted, a person can face a lengthy prison sentence. For that reason, anyone facing such charges needs an aggressive defense.

A 36-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were recently arrested in Charlotte County, Florida, and charged with cocaine trafficking. As in many cases, the drug charges arose out of what appeared to be a simple traffic stop. The couple was driving north on Interstate 75 at about 55 mph in a rented 2013 Nissan. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper pulled them over, apparently because they were not driving faster; the speed limit on Interstate 75 in Florida is 70 mph.

The trooper claims he smelled burnt marijuana in the vehicle. A search of the vehicle allegedly resulted in the discovery of two plastic bags of cocaine hydrochloride in the spare tire compartment.

The defendants in a case like this may be able to challenge the search of the vehicle. Although courts give police wide authority to conduct a warrantless search of a vehicle, that authority is not unlimited. Here, there may be a question whether police had probable cause to pull the car over in the first place.

If the stop was not justified, the accused may be able to argue that the fruits of any subsequent search should be thrown out. The police may argue that the smell of drugs justified a search of the trunk, but an officer likely will not claim to smell the drugs until after the vehicle had been pulled over. If a judge determines that the search was not justified, the evidence seized in the search will not be admitted at trial, and the charges may subsequently be dismissed.

Source: Herald-Tribune, "Bradenton pair arrested on drug trafficking charges," Oct. 28, 2013

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