The Miami Herald reported on May 6, 2019, that Florida police were conducting a routine traffic work near Tamiami Trail when they saw a pickup truck run through a stop sign. They stopped the truck at the ungodly hour of 3:30 am in the morning.
The Florida deputy who stopped the truck asked the male driver for his car registration, insurance information, and his driver’s license. The driver explained that he and his female passenger were out on a nature hunt trying to collect “frogs and snakes from under the overpass.” The deputy, for reasons that weren’t clear in the article, then asked if he could search their bags, clothes, and personal effects of the driver and passenger. The occupants agreed. When the deputy opened the woman passenger’s backpack, he discovered 41 small turtles.
When the deputy was finished with the search, he then asked if they had anything else to disclose. Ariel, the passenger, then “proceeded to pull an alligator (about one foot in length) out of her yoga pants and placed it into the bed of the truck.”
The police shared the alligator photo on their department social media site.
Traffic stops in Maryland
Ok. I know what you’re thinking: good thing it wasn’t a crocodile. Or a scorpion. And, the real offense may have been the possession of the 41 turtles – since everyone knows Maryland is the Terrapin state and we respect our animals.
Still, the police can’t just stop everyone they feel like. They need to have reasonable grounds to believe a driver violated a traffic law. Even when police have reasonable grounds to stop you, then generally need a warrant to search your car unless they can show an exception applies.
Generally, the exceptions that may apply (but only if the facts justify the exception) are:
- If the police have grounds to arrest you
- There is a reasonable suspicion that the driver has some evidence of crime, which was the basis of the traffic stop
- The police impound your car after an arrest to inventory the items in the vehicle
Additional exceptions may apply depending on the basis of the stop.
For routine traffic violations, the police should seek a warrant. If the officer sees you weaving and observes alcohol on your breath, the officer may have the right to search your car.
While officers can ask for permission to search your vehicle, drivers and passengers generally have the right to say no to the request.
If evidence of illegal narcotics or other illegal items is found after a traffic stop, experienced Maryland defense lawyers fight to suppress the evidence.
As a side note, drivers and passengers should understand that some police departments may post photos of you on their website. Whether they can legally do that is an issue to review with your attorney.
At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, we treat every Annapolis traffic case seriously. We understand that traffic offenses can result in a suspension of a license, fines, points on your driving record, and increased insurance premiums. For help with any traffic charge from speeding to a hit and run, contact Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law – at 410.777.8103, or fill out my contact form to set up an appointment. Justice means justice for defendants too.
And remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.