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Marijuana Possession Case Thrown Out Due to Unlawful Traffic Stop

The defendant’s pickup truck was stopped by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  The trooper said that the defendant drove outside the fog line once and onto the fog line twice.  He also noted that the defendant had California plates.

Upon pulling him over, the trooper asked the defendant how long he had been in California, where he was going, where he lived, etc.  Throughout the stop, the defendant repeatedly said that he did not break any traffic laws and didn’t understand why he had been pulled over.  The trooper said he would give him a warning if he was able to verify his license and registration.

But before verifying the driver’s license, the trooper said he smelled marijuana and asked if there were any drugs in the car.  The defendant said no.   But the trooper nonetheless put the defendant in the cruiser and called in a drug dog.  The drug dog alerted to the bed of the truck, and the search found 45 lbs of marijuana.  The defendant was charged with trafficking, drug possession, possession of criminal tools and  possession of drug paraphernalia.

In court, he filed a motion to suppress arguing that the stop was illegal.  Ultimately, the court found that there were no credible facts supporting that the driver committed any traffic violation and that the trooper lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him.   In weighing the trooper’s testimony against the testimony of the defendant, the court found the defendant’s testimony more credible.

When it comes to traffic stops, an officer can only pull you over if there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, such as a traffic violation.  The trooper testified that he observed the defendant drive over the fog line three times.  The trooper’s dashboard camera, however, did not show any movement over the line by the defendant’s car.

The defendant, on the other hand, said that he saw the trooper, and that the trooper began following him very closely.  He stood by his testimony that he did not swerve at all from his lane.   Because he knew the officer was behind him, he made sure he did everything to comply with the traffic laws.

The court believed the defendant over the trooper.  As a result, all evidence of the marijuana discovered in the truck was thrown out and all charges dismissed.

If you have been charged with marijuana possession or other drug charge as the result of a traffic stop, talk to an Ohio criminal defense about the details of your case.  If the stop was illegal — if there was no traffic violation  — your case could be thrown out.

State v. Liebling, 2013-Ohio-5491.