In western Michigan, just over an hour from Kalamazoo, a man was pulled over by police for driving with no working taillights. After stopping the man, authorities found more than one gram of marijuana and 21 pills inside the vehicle. Police also found a scale, which they claim was used for weighing drugs.
The incident occurred one evening late last month, during which time the man was incarcerated in a local jail. The 28-year-old man has since been charged for drug possession.
Police typically do not have justification to search a person’s vehicle during a stop for a minor traffic offense. In this case, the driver was simply pulled over for having no working taillights. In any case, police need probable cause to conduct a search. If there was no such cause for the search, than any evidence they gathered could be invalidated.
Therefore, in order to press charges for this particular drug crime, the police officer will need to demonstrate that he had reason to believe that drugs were in the vehicle. Alternatively, the search would be justified if he saw the drugs in plain view, such as on the dashboard or on a seat, or smelled marijuana in the vehicle.
Unfortunately, police have generally been granted the ability to search a person’s vehicle without a warrant. Conversely, when police wish to search a person’s home, they almost always need a warrant to do so. Legal opinions justifying this position state that there is often necessity to conduct warrantless car searches, since a person has the ability to escape more readily.
In the case of the Michigan man arrested for drug possession, the hope is that further investigation and an active defense will allow the case to be resolved positively.
Source: Kalamazoo Gazette, “Muskegon man busted for drugs during traffic stop,” Heather Lynn Peters, Nov. 29, 2012