The Missouri State Highway Patrol has reported that a routine traffic stop on the morning of Oct. 29 led to the discovery of more than five pounds of a substance believed to be methamphetamine. The drugs were found in two packages that had been taped to the body of a 15-year-old girl. The 22-year-old California woman behind the wheel of the vehicle faces a raft of charges including drug trafficking and endangering the welfare of a minor. Police think the girl may be a human trafficking victim.
A MSHP trooper initiated the traffic stop on the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 in the vicinity of Missouri Route 13 after allegedly observing a Jeep SUV following other vehicles too closely. The deputy says that he became suspicious and searched the vehicle after detecting the odor of marijuana. The female driver of the vehicle and her 15-year-old female passenger were transported to a Higginsville Police Department facility for questioning after marijuana and drug paraphernalia were allegedly discovered in the SUV.
During questioning, the woman and the girl are said to have given contradictory accounts of the nature of their relationship. The suspected methamphetamine was allegedly found when police checked under several layers of the girl’s clothing. The girl’s mother is said to have told police that she did not know the woman and thought her daughter was attending school in Oregon.
When presented with a set of facts similar to these, experienced criminal defense attorneys may question the justification for both the initial traffic stop and the subsequent warrantless search of the vehicle. Police officers must have probable cause to pull vehicles over, and they must have good reason to believe that evidence of ongoing criminal activity will be discovered to search a car without a warrant. If police officers may have acted without sufficient probable cause, attorneys could seek to have charges dismissed.