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Drug unit stops vehicle and arrests 2 on drug charges

Sometimes stopping a vehicle can be a part of a planned drug operation. It's generally not how drug charges are usually initiated in North Carolina, but occasionally the police will pull over a vehicle that they have probable cause to believe is transporting illegal drugs. However, such activity raises the usual issues about the necessity for arrest and search warrants and the validity of the procedures used.

A spokesman for the Narcotics Task Force of the Dare County Sheriff's office announced that they pulled over a vehicle on June 23 on U.S.158 because of 'an undercover investigation' conducted by the Task Force. K-9 units were used to search for controlled substances. A 28-year-old Columbia woman was arrested for possession of controlled substances with intent to sell, or distribution of, cocaine.

She was released on $10,000 bond. Another Dare County female was arrested on a drug charge of possession of cocaine and released on $1,500 bond. According to the Dare County Sheriff, the Narcotic Task Force is a combined effort of the Sheriff's office, the Nags Head Police, the Kill Devil Hills Police, the NC State Bureau of Investigation and NC Alcohol Law Enforcement.

The Sheriff held a news conference and praised inter-agency cooperation in the war against drugs. Notwithstanding all of that, the economic cost of these multi-agency resources and the impact on North Carolina's economy of this kind of investigative drain of resources is problematic. The protection obtained for the people of North Carolina appears to be quite minimal, and yet the cost expended seems to be extravagant.

Furthermore, a North Carolina arrest for drug charges must always meet Fourth Amendment constitutional standards. Here, the stop was made pursuant to an undercover investigation, but there's no mention of search or arrest warrants, indicating the possible failure to submit an affidavit of probable cause to a judicial officer prior to the stop. Without probable cause, the stop was illegal, making all seized contraband inadmissible in response to a motion to dismiss. Granted there can be an exception for an arrest made when a crime is known to be taking place, and there's not enough time to obtain a warrant, but it's unclear if such facts are claimed.

Source: wavy.com, "Narcotics task force makes three arrests," Catherine Rogers, July 2, 2013

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