Over the last few years, over half of all states in the United States have passed laws legalizing marijuana in some form. A handful of states, such as Colorado, have passed particularly liberal laws that now make even the recreational use of marijuana legal. The State of Nebraska, however, is not among any of those states. The passage of laws legalizing marijuana does impact the residents of Nebraska though. Nebraska shares a border with the State of Colorado, for example, which now has one of the most liberal laws in the country. Nebraska’s Interstate 80 also provides acts as a “drug highway” for traffickers who are distributing a wide variety of controlled substances coming up from Central America or moving across the country. Whether you are a Nebraska resident, or just passing through, an Omaha I-80 drug stop attorney discusses recent stops in an effort to make you aware of what to expect if traveling Nebraska’s highways.
In many ways, Nebraska is at the center of a “perfect storm” in the drug trade in the U.S. because of the numerous factors that increase the likelihood of drugs moving through the state. Nebraska borders the State of Colorado to begin with, a state that has a very liberal recreational use marijuana law. In addition, Denver, Colorado has long been considered a major hub for drugs coming into the U.S. from Mexico. Shipments pass through Denver and then move west toward California and the Pacific Northwest or east toward Chicago and the Midwest. For shipment heading east, that means traveling along Interstate 80 through Nebraska. In addition, several states to the west of Nebraska also have liberal marijuana laws, including California, Nevada, and Washington. Anyone heading east from any of those states is likely to travel Interstate 80 as well. Finally, Interstate 80 runs from Sacramento, California all the way to Chicago Illinois, passing through major cities, including Reno, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah, along the way. The sheer length of the interstate means it is well traveled at all times of the day and night.
Out of State Drivers Beware
Understandably, law enforcement agencies throughout the State of Nebraska would like to curb the flow of drugs through the state. To do that, they must try and identify vehicles that are likely transporting those drugs. One criteria law enforcement officers commonly use to try and weed out suspicious vehicles is out of state license plates. The theory is simple enough – transporting drugs begins in one state and ends in another. Therefore, vehicles from out of state are more likely to be transporting drugs along Interstate 80. Recent stops that resulted in successful searches and seizures confirm the working theory. In September of this year (2017), Nebraska State Troopers stopped a vehicle for following too close and ended up arresting two Wisconsin men after 1.5 pounds of marijuana and additional contraband was found after searching the vehicle. That same month, Troopers arrested an Arizona man after stopping a vehicle for speeding and subsequently finding over 20 pounds of methamphetamine and 4.5 pounds of marijuana. Finally, a traffic stop in August by a Seward County Sheriff’s Deputy yielded 25 pounds of heroin and sent a California man to jail. The common denominator in all of these traffic stops is that the vehicles are from out of state traveling along Interstate 80.
Were the Stops Legal?
Whether or not the above-referenced traffic stops and subsequent searches were conducted legally remains to be seen, particularly in light of the fact that we only know what was reported by news agencies. What we do know, however, is that whether a vehicle is from Nebraska or Alaska, a law enforcement officer must have a legal reason to effectuate the traffic stop in the first place. Once stopped, the officer must then have probable cause to detain the driver any longer than it takes to issue a citation for the original stop. Finally, we also know that a motorist cannot be delayed once the original purpose of the stop has ended just so that a “drug sniff” (K-9 unit) can arrive to conduct a sniff search of the vehicle.
If you were arrested as a result of an Interstate 80 traffic stop, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Omaha I-80 criminal defense attorney right away to find out what your legal options may be.
Contact an Omaha I-80 Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.