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Woman pulled over for speeding, charged with drug trafficking

Routine traffic stops for speeding and other offenses often lead to more serious charges. This was the experience of a 27-year-old woman from West Palm Beach, who was arrested recently on drug charges stemming from an incident that happened in 2012. She was released from custody after that incident, but was recently arrested on the original charges when she allegedly violated the conditions of her release.

A report by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office alleges that in September of 2012, a deputy clocked the woman driving 75 mph in a 50 mph zone. After he pulled her over, the deputy claims he detected the odor of marijuana in her vehicle. A drug detecting dog was brought to the scene and indicated drugs were present. A search of the car allegedly turned up cocaine in both powdered and crack forms. Deputies claim they also found more than $1,000 in cash in her vehicle.

A search of a motor vehicle is generally permissible if the officers can demonstrate they had probable cause to suspect they would find evidence of a crime in the vehicle. In this case, it is interesting that the arresting officer claims he smelled marijuana, but news reports do not indicate any marijuana was found in the vehicle. This fact may cast some doubt on the credibility of the officer's allegations of probable cause.

The search could also be justified as incident to an arrest, as long as the search was limited to the area the suspect could reach at the time. The exact location of the cocaine and the cash in the car would be critical facts on this issue.

Anyone arrested on drug trafficking charges in Florida needs an aggressive defense. If the search and seizure survive a constitutional challenge, defense counsel may still be able to negotiate a deal to reduce charges to simple possession, and get the accused into a drug diversion program.

Source: Palm Beach Post, "Topless, speeding West Palm Beach woman jailed on drug trafficking charge," Julius Whigham II, Jan. 1, 2014

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