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Traffic stop on interstate results in shaky drug charges

An air of suspicion accompanies an arrest by the North Carolina Highway Patrol that was labeled a routine traffic stop. A couple was stopped and arrested on drug charges on Interstate 40/85. They were charged by a special operations unit with the Highway Patrol whose spokesman said they 'just happened' to be working in the vicinity. The Criminal Interdiction Team works on highways enforcing traffic safety laws and specializes in finding drugs, illegal weapons and wanted individuals, according to its spokesman.

The premise for the stop was that the car was supposedly weaving and crossed two feet into the adjacent lane. The male driver reportedly had no license, and only showed a Mexican identification card. The female passenger did have a valid driver's license. They had a 3-year-old girl with them. 

The driver told the officer that he was tired. The officer reported that the two occupants' stories weren't consistent. More than that, however, it's suggested that his immigrant status and both being Hispanic seems to have colored the decision to search the car. All in all, this stop and search has all of the ingredients and appearance of racial profiling.

The Criminal Interdiction Team decided that it had reasonable cause to enter the vehicle and make a thorough search. In the process they found 1,000 grams of methamphetamine in plastic containers hidden behind the baby's car seat. They were each charged with one count of drug trafficking because they had more than 400 grams of the charged drug. They were held in the Alamance County jail on $800,000 bond.

Under North Carolina and federal laws, this is a borderline arrest for drug charges. The slight weaving may possibly justify a stop, but if so, the rest of the report indicates nothing except that the man had no driver's license. That hardly seems a justification to make a full-fledged search of the vehicle to look for drugs, especially since the car wasn't stolen and the passenger had a valid license. The accused couple will be well-served by consulting with experienced criminal defense counsel to further evaluate the legality of the police search, and a possible filing of a motion to suppress the evidence.

Source: thetimesnews.com, "Patrol: Couple had meth behind child's car seat," Molly McGowan, June 27, 2013

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