Law enforcement can only detain someone if they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The courts measure reasonable suspicion by the totality of the circumstances. Specifically, a series of seemingly innocent factors may create reasonable suspicion to search when added together.
For instance, police will look at criminal history, nervousness, multiple cell phones, whether the person comes from a drug source city or is going to a drug destination city, inconsistencies in travel plans, and energy drinks. These things by themselves mean nothing, but when added together, that may be enough to establish reasonable suspicion in Nebraska.
Everybody is expected to be nervous during a traffic stop. Law enforcement will, however, argue that nervousness subsides at some point during a stop, but the reality is anybody stopped by a police officer is going to be nervous to some extent. If law enforcement uses your nervousness as justification for reasonable suspicion, an experienced Nebraska attorney at Berry Law can help establish that police had no right to search and seize your vehicle under this pretense.
Multiple Cell Phones
If you have four cell phones, that doesn’t look good to law enforcement. In cases where police detain someone because they had multiple cell phones, an attorney may question the officer about how many cellphones they carry. We have seen police officers on the witness stand admit to carrying two phones – one for work and one for personal use. Nowadays, multiple cell phones are not indicative of someone being a drug dealer or a bad person. Some people just have multiple phones.
Proximity to Drug Source/Destination Cities
If you are from California, police may assume you are traveling from the Emerald triangle, for example, where a lot of marijuana is grown, or maybe some other cities where a lot of methamphetamines are produced. Law enforcement officials refer to those as drug source cities, and big cities on the East Coast or in the Midwest such as Chicago and Minneapolis are considered drug destination cities.
Regardless of where in Nebraska you are stopped, law enforcement will likely argue that you are leaving a drug source city and going to a drug destination city if you have out-of-state plates. These arguments are usually easy to refute because law enforcement has a tough time actually defining which cities are drugs hubs and why. Coincidentally, they are all just big cities, so a lawyer from our team can help diminish the credibility of any interstate drug charges you receive on this basis.
If you have a passenger in the car and you’re traveling back home, your stories are unlikely to match up even if you’re telling the truth. For example, if you get pulled over, you might say to police that you spent 4 nights in Las Vegas, but your friend says you only spent 3 nights.
It’s possible that the friend is just confused or mixed up. It is common for people at the same event to have stories that don’t match perfectly. Unfortunately, this can appear very suspicious when combined with other factors common to interstate drug cases.
Law enforcement loves to say that energy drinks on the floorboards provide reasonable suspicion of drug trafficking because they assume people who transport narcotics from the West Coast to the East Coast have to use energy drinks to get there in the shortest amount of time.
We have cross-examined police officers about this after noticing in the dashcam footage that they had two Monster energy drinks in their cup holders. Our legal team was able to prove that energy drinks have nothing to do with people transporting drugs. But for some reason, law enforcement believes that this is an indicator that someone is involved in criminal activity.
Getting Patted Down
Occasionally, when a driver gets out of their car during a traffic stop, the officer may pat them down. If they are found with a controlled substance like heroin, for example, they are going to be charged with a felony. However, law enforcement can’t pat people down without reasonable suspicion.
Police do not need to take you out of your car and put you in their passenger seat to conduct a traffic stop. This usually happens when the officer asks if they can pat you down. If you say yes, law enforcement will say it was consensual. Otherwise, you may have an argument that, if they found illegal substances in your possession, they conducted a non-consensual pat down without reasonable suspicion to do so.
Following the Scent of Narcotics
Police often claim that they had reasonable suspicion to search a vehicle because they smelled narcotics, usually either raw or burnt marijuana. Our Nebraska lawyers will look at whether there were any pipes in the car or in the possession of any passengers and investigate the origin of the burnt marijuana smell. The smell of burnt marijuana can travel on clothes and other things, but if someone’s been in a car for a long time and there’s no sign of anyone using any smoking apparatus (i.e. rolling papers or a pipe), then that becomes something we can challenge – especially if the search ended up turning up cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine and not marijuana.
Interstate Drug Defense
Berry Law has handled hundreds of cases related to the possession of illegal narcotics. If you were charged with possession with intent to distribute a drug while driving on an interstate highway in Nebraska, Berry Law can help you fight the charges. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a confidential consultation.