A real estate agent from another state was arrested in Arkansas recently when state troopers found 253 pounds of potent marijuana in the truck she was driving. The incident illustrates once again some of the issues that come up when a routine traffic stop leads to a felony drug charge. The first question that the accused woman's criminal defense attorney will face is whether the traffic stop itself was justified.
The authorities cannot stop a vehicle unless there is reasonable suspicion that a motor vehicle or criminal violation is occurring. This requires less evidence than probable cause, but it nonetheless requires the officer to demonstrate, by experience or other justification, that there is an 'articulable' reason for making the stop. In this case, troopers say that the truck was towing a trailer on its rear while it traveled on I-40 near the 79 mile marker.
Troopers say that they made the stop after observing the truck and trailer swerve outside of its lane. That part of the report must be examined in detail for weaknesses or conflicts with the facts. However, even if justified in pulling the vehicle over, prosecutors must next prove that they had a right to search the truck rather than make a cursory examination of the driver's credentials. That part of the story is missing from press reports and may provide an answer to whether or not the defendant will have a viable defense.
Authorities charged her with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver. Under Arkansas law, possession of over 100 pounds is a class A felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment for six to 30 years. With the stakes so imposing, criminal defense counsel must put forth a concerted effort to determine whether the facts allow for a viable defense to this felony drug charge. If there was no observable justification for the troopers to search the truck and/or trailer, then a strong defense to the charges must be waged, which will likely be presented in the form of a motion to suppress the evidence.
Source: krcrtv.com, "Redding real estate agent arrested in Arkansas pot bust", Maghan Hunt, Feb. 5, 2016