Utah Supreme Court cries foul after police search car for drugs

Being on parole in Utah is difficult and man individuals on supervised release often feel unfairly targeted by police officers.

One Utah man was recently able to suppress evidence of drugs that police officers found in his car during a traffic stop. The Utah Supreme Court found that police officers unreasonably extended the length of a traffic stop to search the man’s vehicle.

The case involves a man named Craig Gurule who was known to local police officers for his drug involvement. Police officers received an anonymous call of a possible drug deal at the Springville Allen’s grocery store. Upon leaving the store, officers saw Gurule leaving the store and decided to start following him.

Being followed by a police officer is unnerving, especially for someone on parole. In this case, the officers alleged that they decided to pull Craig Gurule over after seeing his tires go onto the fog line of the road.

Despite the minor nature of this traffic violation and not seeing anything suspicious in the man’s car, police officers conducted a full search of the car and called Craig Gurule’s parole officer to the scene.

The officers eventually found some methamphetamine in the car, so the parole officer asked for help searching the man’s home. There the officers found surveillance equipment, a digital scale, and a small amount of marijuana.

Even parolees have constitutional rights to privacy.

In this case, the court found that the police officers improperly extended their traffic stop despite not initially finding any drug-related activity.

Although officers had a reasonable hunch that Craig Gurule was dealing drugs given his past, this was insufficient to rise to the level of “reasonable suspicion” required to extend this routine traffic stop into a full-out search.

“The officers saw nothing to indicate that Gurule was armed or involved in the possession or distribution of illegal drugs,” the Utah Supreme Court wrote. “Therefore, after the completion of the protective frisk and plain-view search, the officers were obliged to return their focus to the original purpose of the traffic stop. But they did not. Instead, they undertook a prolonged investigation into Gurule’s possible drug activity.”

The Utah Supreme Court therefore threw out all drug-related evidence from the traffic stop and the search of the man’s home. This makes it extremely likely that all of his charges stemming from this incident will be dropped.

The Salt Lake City criminal defense team at Greg Smith & Associates handles drug crimes throughout Utah. If you or a loved one is under investigation or has been charged with drug dealing or possession, call us at 801-651-1512 or contact us online.

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