While it might seem strange, being stopped for a routine traffic offense such as speeding can result in you facing drug charges. Even during such a routine traffic stop, the officer can look into your car. If something is in plain sight that indicates drug use or possession and the officer sees it, this constitutes probable cause for the officer to conduct a more extensive search of you and your vehicle, even without your permission.
The Police Are Not Allowed to Conduct Random Drug Checkpoints
While the police are allowed to make stops for probable cause, such as speeding or other traffic violations, they cannot stop cars randomly, for no reason, and demand license and registration. Even at checkpoints for driving under the influence, the officers can’t actually stop you, but can only make you slow down enough for them to look into your car from the outside and look at you for indications of intoxication. If they see indications of criminal activity, they can stop you to investigate.
Because of this, you are unlikely to encounter a “drug checkpoint.” The Supreme Court has ruled that police may not conduct roadblocks to check for drug offenses. You still can be at risk of drug charges from permissible routine traffic stops and DUI checkpoints, however. The police at DUI checkpoints are not allowed to ask for license and registration and are limited to looking at drivers for signs of intoxication and checking license plate numbers for outstanding offenses. They can, however, act upon what they see in a driver’s car that is in plain sight.
Being caught with drugs in your possession after a traffic stop is not necessarily a one-way ticket to jail. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees protection against unreasonable search and seizures. What constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure is a matter of law, subject to determination by the courts. If the circumstances of a traffic stop are not reasonable, evidence of drug possession uncovered during that stop might be inadmissible in court and charges could be dismissed. This is, however, a difficult path to navigate.
The Police Must Have a Valid Reason to Stop You
Supreme Court cases have upheld the principle that police must have probable cause to make a traffic stop. In short, there must be a legitimate reason to believe that the law is being broken before making a stop. Of course, this can be as simple as having a headlight or taillight out or failing to signal a turn. If evidence of drugs use or possession is in plain sight, that can result in drug charges far more serious than the traffic offense that resulted in the stop.
If You are Facing Drug Charges After a Traffic Stop in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, Contact the Criminal Law Attorneys of Mitnick and Associates
If you have been arrested on drug charges following a traffic stop in the Atlanta Metro area, including Alpharetta, Roswell, Cumming, Johns Creek, and Milton, you should consult a criminal defense attorney to explore your options. The stop might have been incorrectly conducted or otherwise have violated your rights in some way. The attorneys at Mitnick and Associates can help. You can reach us at (770) 408-7000 or through our online contact form.