Maryland State Police troopers responding to a two-vehicle accident in Carroll County on the afternoon of Nov. 16 took one of the drivers involved into custody after allegedly finding illegal drugs in his pockets. The Pennsylvania resident has been charged with two counts of drug possession and two counts of drug possession with the intent to distribute. Court records reveal that he was released on his own recognizance on Nov. 18.
The accident took place at the intersection of Magna Way and Maryland Route 97 in Westminster at approximately 3:47 p.m. According to police reports, a Dodge Caravan being driven by the man struck another vehicle while traveling southbound on Maryland Route 97. Troopers who arrived at the scene say that they became suspicious and called in a K9 unit when the man seemed nervous and gave contradictory answers to questions.
The Dodge Caravan was searched after the K9 unit alerted to the presence of drugs as it sniffed the driver’s side door. No illegal narcotics were found in the vehicle, but a search of the man’s pockets allegedly yielded 22 capsules containing a substance believed to be heroin, 11 cylinders containing a substance believed to be crack cocaine and three glass vials that also appeared to contain crack cocaine. Troopers claim to have found a smoking device containing crack cocaine residue.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may pay particularly close attention to the sequence of events when drug charges are based on narcotics found by K9 units. While a drug-sniffing dog’s alert provides police officers with probable cause to conduct a search, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that traffic stops may not be prolonged unreasonably just so that K9 units can be called to the scene. When no drugs are discovered during a vehicle search, attorneys may question whether police had probable cause to then search the driver.