Whenever drugs are found in a ‘traffic stop’ the facts surrounding the stop and any other information that the authorities had on the occupants prior to the stop should be sought and determined. Sometimes the police may use the traffic stop as a pretextual excuse for searching existing drug suspects and bringing drug charges. In Texas and generally throughout the country, there must first be some reasonable basis on which to make a traffic stop in the first place.
The Midland Police stopped a car for what they called a ‘traffic stop’ but apparently cited no motor vehicle provisions being violated. The news report indicates that after the stop the occupants were searched and then the car was searched. Again, no reasons are given to justify these searches.
During what could have been an illegal search, the officer found a silver crack pipe on the front right passenger’s floorboard, and three syringes containing heroin. He also says he found a plastic bag containing heroin and a plastic bag containing crack cocaine. These intrusions are not allowed simply because a car is stopped for a traffic violation.
The two men, ages 29 and 38, were being held on $30,000 bond each. Each was charged with two counts of felony drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. The suspicious nature of this stop may simply be due to a sloppy press report. The police report may better indicate the reason for the traffic stop. Until then, there’s at least the possibility that the traffic stop was used as a convenient pretext for making a search of pre-existing suspects without having probable cause or getting a warrant.
A random, generic traffic stop is generally not allowed. There must be an observable suspicion of a motor vehicle violation. A traffic stop that is purely random would likely justify a motion to suppress the evidence and dismiss the drug charges. Similarly, if there was no reason justifying the additional step of searching their persons and the car, then a motion to suppress and for dismissal may also be justified. In Texas as well as anywhere else, the right of privacy extends to one’s vehicle and the police cannot violate those parameters without something akin to reasonable suspicion of a violation.
Source: mywesttexas.com, “MPD: 2 men arrested on drug possession charges,” Aug. 8, 2013