Another major drug bust is being credited to a routine traffic stop in New York City. DEA task force members were conducting an unrelated investigation in Queens when they noticed a pickup truck and a Monster truck driving together around the same block in the Elmhurst area. Authorities say that one of the trucks was unregistered so they pulled the vehicles over, which led to the arrest of the occupants on drug charges involving one of the biggest heroin busts in New York City history.
When first stopped, authorities say that the drivers of the two vehicles gave inconsistent answers, which led them to bring a drug-sniffing dog who detected something. The agents say that they got a warrant at that point. They reported that the search revealed 48 kilograms of heroin, with a street value of $13 million, inside truck parts lying in the flatbed of the pickup.
Routine traffic stops are lucrative sources of drug arrests. However, they must not exceed constitutional limits. A vehicle cannot be stopped for anything less than ‘reasonable suspicion’ when officers observe it. Mere suspicion or even a hunch are not sufficient.
The officer must have an ‘articulable reason’ to make the stop. If a stop is justified, a search must be based on further evidence, properly observed and raising further suspicion. When the police obtain a search warrant that does not satisfy legal requirements, or when they proceed to search without a warrant and without probable cause, the contraband may be subject to a motion to suppress the evidence.
In New York and elsewhere, probable cause requires more proof than reasonable suspicion and is sometimes said to require a reasonable ground for belief that the alleged facts were committed. Where drug charges are brought based on search results, criminal defense counsel will thoroughly review the facts and the evidence. He or she will discuss the findings with the defendant and will make a recommendation on the potential success of filing a motion to suppress the evidence.
Source: New York Daily News, “Authorities find giant heroin stash in two vehicles including Monster truck in Queens; drivers arrested“, John Annese, Jan. 27, 2016