D.Neb.: Def was being tailed on a DEA tip; a traffic stop ripened to RS

Defendant’s car was being followed on a tip from the DEA that he was transporting drugs. When the officer pulled him over for a traffic offense, the officer noticed air freshener sprinkled on the floor of a clean and new rental car. Defendant’s nervousness never abated even after the officer told him he was just getting a warning. Defendant didn’t have his DL on him, and, on calling dispatch, the officer learned that defendant also had a criminal record for drugs. In his testimony, the officer also noted that the vehicle was registered to another which is an indicator to him in his training that the vehicle was likely being used to transport drugs. This, the court finds, is reasonable suspicion. United States v. Palomares, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 215156 (D. Neb. Nov. 2, 2019),* adopted, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 214001 (D. Neb. Dec. 12, 2019).*

Observation and practice pointer: Sometimes the traffic offense is a cover story or just the excuse for a stop when the officers already know way more. I had a marijuana suppression hearing involving a traffic stop with a guy in a rented car driving around the city on the interstate system. The local sheriff’s narc stopped him claiming it was all based on a traffic offense and that reasonable suspicion developed. The state’s problem is that, based on the reports and the hearing, reasonable suspicion clearly had not developed. I’ll spare the details of the cross. The delay waiting for the drug dog was fatal without reasonable suspicion: 45 minute wait inside the city because all the available drug dogs were tied up. They had to get one to come from another city in the county. The court suppressed, and the state did not appeal. The point was, however, that I remain convinced that they actually had a CI’s tip and they were either afraid to say that in court for fear of burning the snitch’s identity because the defendant could likely have figured it out, or they really didn’t have reasonable suspicion and this was all a gamble. Anyway, they went with the reasonable suspicion story. If they used informant hearsay, they probably could have gotten to reasonable suspicion. It was police strategy to go with reasonable suspicion, and it failed.

If I’ve told this story before, indulge me.

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