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Drug charge tied to validity of traffic stop

A routine traffic stop by a police officer in New Braunfels did not end well for the driver of the vehicle and his passenger. The discovery by the officer of an active warrant for the passenger led to a search of the 24-year-old man and the filing of marijuana charges. The driver did not fare much better. His refusal to stop his car immediately when the officer signaled him to pull over earned him a fleeing charge.

The names given to criminal charges can be misleading. Take, for example, the fleeing charge against the driver of the car. Images of a high-speed chase through the streets of New Braunfels come to mind, but a slowly moving vehicle traveling for a block or two is what police allege occurred. A judge or jury will have to decide if the facts as proven by the evidence establish that the driver committed the misdemeanor offense of eluding or fleeing from a police officer.

The drug charge against the passenger appears to have resulted from questioning of the passenger by the police officer. From the questioning, the officer concluded that an arrest warrant existed. Police are entitled to search a person following a lawful arrest and to seize evidence of criminal activity discovered during such a search. The marijuana hidden in the passenger's pants is evidence the police will use to support the drug possession charge.

Ultimately, it is up to a judge to decide if police acted properly by stopping the vehicle and searching for evidence that they seized from the passenger. A motion by criminal defense attorneys representing the accused driver and passenger might ask a judge to exclude the seized evidence from use at trial.

Source: KGNB, "NBPD: Routine traffic stop nets two arrests for drug possession and fleeing," March 27, 2013

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