Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Miller stopped a driver for speeding and seized 90-pounds of marijuana. The basis for Deputy Miller’s drug bust involved the following factors: (1) the driver was nervous, (2) the driver’s hands were shaking, (3) the driver’s story was suspicious, and (4) the driver’s vehicle looked “lived in.” During the traffic stop, Deputy Miller asked if he could search the car, but the driver refused. Deputy Miller then deployed his drug dog around the driver’s car, and the drug dog allegedly alerted to the odor of marijuana in the vehicle. The driver was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver, prohibited acts, a tax stamp violation, and a speeding ticket. The driver was brought to Pottawattamie County Jail. Click here to view the article.
As we have discussed in previous posts, warrantless vehicle searches during routine traffic stops similar to the one conducted by Deputy Miller of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office are frequent occurrences in Iowa. Generally speaking, under current Iowa law, every time a person is pulled over for a routine traffic stop, the potential exists that officer will turn the stop into a full-fledged vehicle search—equipped with a drug dog and all. In fact, multiple law enforcement agencies in Iowa are now equipped with drug dog officers. Some of these agencies include the Iowa State Patrol, Des Moines Police Department, Iowa City Police Department and various county sheriff’s offices.
Moreover, the factors used by officers like the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Deputy Miller to support his basis for conducting the full-fledged 4th Amendment search are not unique or uncommon in the general motoring public. For instance, appearing nervous after being pulled over or having shaky hands are characteristics that many drivers experience during a traffic stop, regardless of whether they are engaged in some unlawful or illegal activity. And let’s be honest, how many people do you know out there who have cars that look like they live in them? It has to be a pretty significant number of drivers on the road—especially those who travel a lot for work. If Deputy Miller’s search is predicated on these factors alone, his search of Mr. Ducharme’s vehicle and the subsequent seizure of the 90-pounds of marijuana may very well have been in violation of the 4th Amendment. Hopefully, Mr. Ducharme hires a good lawyer.
We at the Stowers Law Firm are very familiar with Deputy Miller and his drug dog Francesco, (the above article spells it Francisco which is incorrect, its Francesco) and knowing how they operate, I would think there might possibly be a valid 4th Amendment motion to suppress evidence. If you are in need of more information on traffic stops such as this one, please visit the Stowers Law Firm or read our other blog posts on the topic. Make sure you know your 4th Amendment rights and protect yourself from unlawful searches and seizures.