When it comes to a routine traffic stop, every individual has rights that cannot be violated in the process. For instance, without a search warrant, authorities must have reasonable cause to suspect the presence of unlawful activity before the search of a vehicle can be performed. A court has recently vacated a conviction and dismissed drug charges against a Tennessee man after ruling that a search of his vehicle was initiated without probable cause.
According to reports, the initial incident took place on Nov. 2012 during a routine traffic stop. During the stop, police reportedly enlisted the services of a K-9 unit to perform an open-air search for reasons that remain unclear. Officers claimed that during this process, the K-9 unit exhibited a change in body language, which they reportedly took as an indication that there were drugs within the vehicle.
Law enforcement agents initiated a search of the vehicle, which allegedly led them to discover the presence of more than 3 ounces of marijuana. The man was arrested soon thereafter, and three years later, he was convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. However, during subsequent legal proceedings, a judge ruled that the change in the unit's body language was not sufficient enough to provide authorities with probable cause to conduct a search, and his conviction was vacated and the drug possession charge was dismissed.
When accused of drug charges, the average person may be unaware of his or her legal rights and uncertain how best to approach the situation. Those who face similar accusations could benefit from seeking advice from an experienced defense attorney as soon as the charges are filed. An attorney can thoroughly examine the formal charges against a client in Tennessee, along with the procedures used during the search of his or her vehicle, and provide advice on the best course of action to take during subsequent court proceedings.
Source: tennessean.com, "Franklin police lacked probable cause in search that led to man's prison sentence, higher court says", Elaina Sauber, Accessed on May 29, 2018