R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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Drug charge defense might depend on police dog

A narcotics task force operating in Texas has made a significant financial impact on groups and individuals committing drug offenses in the area. Officials reported that a task force composed of personnel drawn from local and federal law enforcement agencies seized more than $386,000 in less than a month. The police attribute the money to drug trafficking in the region.

The Fort Bend County Narcotics Task Force has been working along U.S. 59 and other roads in the Houston area. A recent seizure of money began with a routine police stop for a traffic violation, but the stop ended badly for the motorist after a task force detective and a trained police dog conducted a search. An alert from the dog directed officers to a box containing more than $169,000 that was concealed in the rear of the vehicle.

Police arrested the 60-year-old male driver of the vehicle and charged him with money laundering. The man posted a $15,000 bond and was released from custody to appear at a future court date on the second degree felony charges. A felony conviction might result in harsh penalties including a prison sentence and substantial fine.

Searches and seizures conducted by police officers during routine traffic stops might be challenged by the defense as being in violation of the driver's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Law enforcement agents must have probable cause to conduct a search and seize any evidence that is found. Whether the alert given by the police dog was sufficient to establish probable cause for the officers to search the vehicle is a question that a judge might have to decide on a motion to suppress the evidence.

Source: Your Houston News, " Traffic stop on U.S. 59 leads to almost $170K in illicit cash", May 16, 2014

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