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Reasonable suspicion and traffic stops that lead to arrest

Drug charges are taken very seriously in New Jersey. Sentencing for individuals convicted of drug crimes, however, can vary dramatically. Factors considered in sentencing include the amount of drugs found on the individual, the type of substance seized, specific drug charge including whether the person is charged with drug possession or drug manufacturing, the age of the defendant, and of course, whether the defendant has a history of drug charges.

A 24-year-old and friends were recently arrested after New Jersey police seized more than 250 grams of marijuana. The officers allegedly initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle. During the stop, however, police officers noticed that two of the passengers in the vehicle were moving around suspiciously. Officers said it appeared as though the passengers were attempting to hide something in the car.

After noticing a smell, the officer ran the men through the computer system and noticed that one of the passengers had an outstanding warrant. After removing the man from the car police found a scale. Based on this, officers initiated a search that led to the seizure of a bag containing approximately 280 grams of marijuana that had been packed for sale. The men were charged with possessing drug paraphernalia and possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.

In order to protect the public from unlawful search and seizure and abusive police tactics, police are prohibited from making a traffic stop unless they have reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is defined as an objectively justifiable belief based on facts that can justify the traffic stop and subsequent search. If a law enforcement officer cannot articulate a justifiable reason for the traffic stop the charges filed against the driver can be dismissed. This is extremely difficult to do on one's own, however, and usually requires expert help in deconstructing the initial traffic stop.

Source: South Jersey Times, "2 Bridgeton men face drug charges after traffic stop," Alex Young, March 6, 2013

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