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Sometimes a simple traffic stop can lead to more serious criminal charges if the individuals are involved in an alleged illegal act, but police have to have probable cause to search vehicle. If a search of the vehicle yields evidence of illegal activity, then police officers can make arrests unrelated to the initial cause of the stop, as shown in a recent Little Ferry case. But, again, the question of probable cause should always be asked.

Recently, two North Jersey men found themselves under arrest and facing weapons and drug charges after a police officer stopped the men's vehicle, which allegedly had an improperly displayed license plate. The suspect's pickup truck was pulled over on Route 46 on the morning of Sept. 11. During the stop, the officer claimed to notice nervous behavior from the vehicle's occupants as well as the scent of marijuana.

The officer claims to have asked for and received permission to search the vehicle. During that search, he purportedly found $8,000 in cash, hunting knives and a packet containing marijuana, cocaine and baggies. The men were arrested at the scene on drugs and weapons charges, and the driver was also charged with two motor vehicle violations.

The 39-year-old Garfield resident and 29-year-old Prospect Park resident were transported to Bergen County Jail, where they were held pending a $105,000 bail.

This case demonstrates the importance of knowing one's rights concerning searches, whether at home or in a vehicle. Even though the nervous activity and the smell of marijuana may have awakened the officer's suspicions, granting permission to perform a search negates the need for a warrant and allows any evidence found to be used against the vehicle's owner.

Source: NorthJersey.com, "Garfield, Prospect Park men face Little Ferry drug, weapons charges," Denisa R. Superville, Sept. 11, 2012

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