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Pot case: seemingly uncontroversial, yet still instructive

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2017 | Firm News

She was driving on an interstate in North Dakota, with police officers subsequently claiming that she was speeding.

Under American law that applies in every state, including Arkansas, that infraction gave the officers the “probable cause” needed to stop her.

Things got interesting after they did.

Reportedly, a drug-sniffing dog “gave a positive alert” during her roadside questioning, which provided further probable cause to search the vehicle.

That yielded something truly interesting, namely, 286 pounds of marijuana worth approximately $1.4 million.

Essentially, that’s all there was to the story, which might quickly close the chapter on it for most readers.

Not for all readers, though.

Indeed, it is the probable cause element that often looms large and comprises the first line of inquiry for criminal defense attorneys representing clients accused of criminal conduct.

And here’s why: It happens sometimes — not often, perhaps, but with enough regularity to be concerning to reflective Americans — that there are flaws with probable cause claims.

In some cases, police officers are simply wrong, with a judge subsequently ruling that their claim to have reasonable grounds to search an individual was so weak as to be constitutionally defective.

In other cases (more troublesome, to be sure), evidence emerges that alleged probable cause was fabricated or otherwise manipulated as a mere pretext to commence a search that would otherwise be impermissible.

Concededly, that might not remotely be the case concerning the above-cited story, which is merely noted to make a point.

That point is this: Constitutional safeguards and protections that apply to law enforcers as they go about their job apply equally to individuals who are accused of criminal wrongdoing.

An experienced defense attorney will always be thinking about that as he or she goes about the task of diligently representing a criminal law client.

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