Traffic stops often lead to arrests and charges for more serious crimes. A prime example of this phenomenon occurred on November 19 when a Swansea police officer stopped a speeding car and allegedly smelled marijuana. The ensuing events might seem like a bonanza to a criminal defense attorney.
According to a police department press release, the officer stopped the vehicle on Illinois 161 for traveling more than 20 mph over the speed limit. The officer approached the vehicle and allegedly noticed a scale used for weighing small portions of drugs, and he also allegedly smelled marijuana. Having checked his on-board computer, the officer says that he was aware of the driver’s 10 prior criminal convictions, including one for aggravated sexual assault, and that the driver was a registered sex offender.
With this information in hand, the officer asked the driver if he could search the car. The driver allegedly refused permission and threatened the officer by telling him that he would need to shoot the driver if he wanted to search the car. The officer arrested the driver and proceeded to search the car. Police claim the search yielded a semiautomatic handgun hidden beneath the driver’s seat. The gun’s serial number had allegedly been defaced. The driver was incarcerated at the St. Clair County Jail and was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number. The police press release made no mention of drug charges.
This case demonstrates how traffic stops often yield evidence of other potential crimes. The discovery of the handgun is especially prejudicial because the suspect has a prior criminal record, including at least one felony. Anyone who is arrested under similar circumstances may benefit from consulting a criminal defense attorney for an assessment of the legal options available to him or her.
Source: Belleville News-Democrat, “Officer smells pot during traffic stop, finds loaded gun in sex offender’s car, police say,” Kaley Johnson, Nov. 27, 2017