Seizing Drugs at an Ocean City Traffic Stop
Is It Common For Law Enforcement to Seize Drugs At a Traffic Stop?
Yes, I would say that it’s very common as long as an officer can articulate the basis for believing that the person has drugs during the traffic stop.
So if a police officer is making a traffic stop, maybe for a speeding violation, pulls the car over, walks up to the driver side window and says that he smells the odor of burning marijuana or maybe even raw marijuana in the vehicle, that would then lead to the police officer searching that vehicle for marijuana.
Or, maybe the police officers makes contact with the driver and the driver seems to be under the influence of drugs, then that might lead to the police officer searching the entire car for drugs. The Ocean City Police Department has several K9 officers.
And so if a police officer, maybe he’s making just a typical traffic stop. But when he makes the traffic stop, something about what’s going on in the car or something going with the driver makes the officer suspicious that there may be drugs in the car, the police — that officer may then call a K9 officer to come to the location of the traffic stop and have a K9 run a scan around the car.
And if the K9 alerts, that which means the K9 is indicating there are drugs in the car. then that could lead to a search of the entire vehicle for drugs. So a traffic stop can evolve in to an investigation of you know, possibly possessing drugs. And it does happen frequently in Ocean City. It absolutely does.
Do You Have to Consent to The Search?
No. A police officer can ask for a permission to search the vehicle. And the owner of the car absolutely has the right to refuse. They don’t have to give consent to a police officer to search a car. Now what happens much more often is the police officer does not ask for consent to search.
The officer makes some observations and decides that he has the sufficient basis to be able to search the car. He would have to rely on articulating the factors such as an odor or oftentimes an officer will look at the level of nervousness of the person; person seemed unusually upset or nervous without having interaction with the police officer.
An officer can attempt several different strategies in order to gather the necessary probable cause to search the vehicle. Another tactic that they typically use is they will separate the driver from any passenger and will individually question those people about where they are going, where have they been, is there anything in the car and try and get if those story are contradicting one another, then that could lead to a sufficient evidentiary basis for the officer to search that car without the consent of the owner.
So along that same line, if a K9 scans a car and alerts to the presence of drugs that gives its own legal basis for the officer to search the car without needing the consent of the owner.
A person doesn’t not have to consent to allowing an officer to search the car. However, a police officer will make observations and will try to gather enough evidence to give that officer a legal basis to be able to do a search without the consent of the owner.