A Minnesota judge ruled on Oct. 8 that police did not have sufficient probable cause to search a camper in March. The ruling led to the release of two Montana men who were taken into custody when police discovered more than 900 pounds of marijuana in the camper. The men were facing up to 30 years in prison on drug possession charges.
The Minnesota State Patrol trooper who made the traffic stop on Interstate 94 said that he pulled the camper over because it was being driven erratically and had a cracked windshield. He also claimed that seeing campers at that time of the year was rare. However, footage recorded by his cruiser’s dashboard camera revealed that the camper was being driven safely, and several other campers were on the road at the time.
The judge determined that the cracked windshield gave the trooper a valid reason to pull the camper over, but he ruled that it did not provide him with probable cause to search the vehicle. The judge then declared the search unconstitutional and the seized drugs inadmissible. The marijuana was found after a K9 unit alerted to the presence of drugs. In addition to the marijuana, police said they found more than 100 glass jars containing THC wax, 406 packages of THC concentrate and approximately $15,000 in U.S. currency. Prosecutors declined to comment when asked if they plan to appeal the ruling.
This case shows how seriously judges take protections against unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may point to rulings like this one when advising their clients to never consent to a warrantless search no matter how dire their situations may seem. Attorneys may also urge individuals facing drug charges to make no statements to law enforcement without first speaking to a lawyer.