Seizures in Drug Cases | Interdictions and Roadkill

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Seizures in Drug Cases

How pretextual stops can become the basis for a stop, drug arrest, and subsequent seizure and forfeiture.

There are two classic ways that money is recovered from a roadside stop. As a prosecutor, they would call those “Road kills.”

The two ways that road kills happen are as follows. One is it is a coordinated preemptive or pretextual traffic stop. Say a DEA agent says, “I believe that Johnny is going to be driving on the highway and I need him pulled over for a traffic stop.” They know that Johnny is a drug courier because some informant told him so. In that instance, a local officer may be used to pull over Johnny because if they use a federal agent, Johnny will now know he is under federal investigation.

In that particular circumstance, you have a pretextual stop where the whole design to the stop is to try to get in that car. In direct answer to your question, “How do they get into the car?” That local officer will start to ask the typical questions any of us who have been pulled over have been asked. “Where are you coming from? Where are you going?” Oftentimes, couriers and it is not just drug cases, you have a lot of people hauling stolen loot. You have other people who are just traveling with a large amount of money that didn’t break any law at all. They’re the ones that really vulnerable here.

For whatever example, oftentimes people will give inconsistent or fishy answers and that will lead the officer to ask more questions. The officer obviously is going to go back to their police car. They’re going to run the criminal record of the person they pulled over. If they see there are convictions in that person’s past, they are going to look for an excuse to delay the stop more so they can develop probable cause to be able to search that vehicle. Make no mistake, officers are trained to turn what are supposed to be innocuous conversations into a justification to search that vehicle.

The other type of example just to kind of complete what we’re talking about is this can happen coincidentally, where it is not a pretext. A local officer may pull somebody over for speeding but still get fishy answers. Maybe they smell an odor of a narcotic. Maybe they go and notice someone has a criminal record. For whatever reason, they develop the cause to get into the car and they discover a lot of money. Now, you start to have a lot of questions about the money. “What is this money for? What are you doing with it?” If you were to say, “I intend to go buy a house. I’m on my way to look for a house,” they are never going to believe you. Even though there are a lot of people in this country that travel with large sums of money, that is often interpreted and by often, I say almost always interpreted as just an excuse that is not really what the money was for. It’s easier to believe it is drug money or tied to some other theft or offense.

Learn more about seizures stemming from merely carrying a large amount of cash:

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