How Objective Facts and Probable Cause Led an Officer to Search a Suspicious Vehicle

The case of United States v. Moody heard in the Eastern District of Virginia and originating in Newport News, Virginia provides further insight into what police officers can use to stop you and then search you and your car. 

Background

            The defendants in this case moved to cover up the crack cocaine, guns, and large amount of cash found in a traffic stop after being charged with conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm in relating to a drug crime.

The Stop

            The court found that the driver’s failing to stop before the solid white line at a traffic light, following another car too closely, swerving and nearly hitting a parked vehicle (combined with the fact that it was 3:42 a.m.) were enough to initiate a traffic stop. 

The Searches

Upon approaching the vehicle and seeing the passengers moving around the car, the officer recognized the scent of marijuana emanating from the vehicle and initiated a search of both the vehicle and its occupants. The fact that no marijuana was found in the car did not lessen the officer’s probable cause. 

What This Means

            This opinion further solidifies the rule that officers may pull over vehicles no matter what their subjective reasoning as long as they have objective facts to stop the car. Here the officer started following a car because it crossed over the white line at a stoplight, which oftentimes goes unnoticed, but the officer must have had a suspicion about the people in the car. The officer then waited for further objective reasoning to stop the car; once he got it, he could then followed through on his suspicions.

Advocacy

            Smith Strong attorneys are in court every week on family and criminal law matters. Our attorneys know that every fact in criminal proceedings is important, and they will advocate zealously on your behalf. Please call our Richmond office at (804) 325-1245 or our Williamsburg office at (757) 941-4298 to schedule a meeting if you are in legal trouble, so our attorneys can get working on your issue right away.

Editorial Assistance: Michael Gee 

H. Van Smith
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