Drug Trafficker Makes Constitutional Claim After Traffic Stop

An alleged drug trafficker recently made an interesting constitutional argument while appealing his drug trafficking charges.

Utah Highway Patrol officers allegedly found 105 pounds of marijuana in the man’s car after it was stopped on a rural stretch of Interstate 80 in Summit County in November of 2008. The UHP was conducting a high volume of traffic stops in that area because California authorities had informed them that California’s marijuana crop would be harvested around that time.

UHP officers suspected that drug traffickers would be moving marijuana through Utah around that period and hoped to catch some of the traffickers through increased patrols.

The UHP did saturation patrols in Summit County over a three day period that November. Although traffic stop logs had varying numbers, approximately 95 percent of the stops involved non-Utah license plates. This was despite the fact that the officers were allegedly not instructed to specifically target out-of-state vehicles.

The officer who stopped the California drug trafficker said that the man crossed the fog line three times during a half-mile stretch. While conducting the stop the UHP officer allegedly noticed the strong smell of raw marijuana and something in the back of the vehicle covered with a blanket.

A search of the vehicle allegedly revealed 105 pounds of marijuana. The man entered a provisional guilty plea to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute pending his appeal.

We will discuss the man’s legal arguments on appeal in our next post.

Source: State v. Chettero, 297 P.3d 582728, Utah Adv. Rep. 6, Feb. 15, 2013

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