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If you’ve been charged with a crime in Tulsa, Creek, or Rogers counties, call the Cale law office at 918-277-4800. Your initial consultation with Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale is free. You’ll also get a free defense strategy plan tailored just for your case. You can take it with you.
The defendant was convicted of trafficking in illegal drugs. Jury recommended eight years in prison the 50,000 fine. The judge sentenced accordingly. The defendant raised some issues on appeal. His first argument was that the ordinance that he was alleged to violated did not require him to use a turn signal of the circumstances, therefore the stop was unconstitutional. Secondly the officers prolonged detention was unreasonable and violated his fourth amendment rights.
A Claremore police officer was searching local motel parking lots for trucks involved in a vandalism incident. In one of his parking lots, the officer saw the defendant standing beside a high and car. The Claremore officer thought that the man seem suspicious but drove past him on his way to check another parking lot. Later, he encountered the high and car traveling on a highway near Catoosa. The car stopped at the intersection of the highway and turn left onto another highway without using a turn signal. After a while, the car was now in front of the officer but stopped at a red light at the intersection. When the intersection cleared, the officer drove through, got behind the car and pulled it over.
The defendant was alone in the car. The officer asked for his drivers license and proof of insurance. The defendant seemed very nervous. His hands were shaking almost uncontrollably and he had sweat dripping down his face. He would not make eye contact with the officer. The defendant gave the officer his drivers license and a rental car agreement. The officer told the defendant had stopped him because he failed to signal is left turn and he was going give him a warning.
The officer returned to his car and radioed for a sheriff’s deputy drug dog. The officer was concerned that the defendants nervousness and the fact that he did not relax when he was told he was only going to receive a warning. As the drug dog was being dispatched, the officer checked the defendant’s drivers license. When the drug dog officer arrived, he and the other officer determined that was not probable cause original suspicion to obtain the defendant further. The officer completed the warning citation, returned to the defendant’s car and it him the warning and other effects and told him that he was free to go.
Even though his car was running, the defendant did not imminently drive away. The officer paused, then asked defendant he could ask him a few questions. The defendant replied that he could. This encounter led the drug dog handler to retrieve his dog and run him around the perimeter of the car. The dog alerted to the trunk of the car. A search revealed five pieces a matching luggage. Through the pieces contain bottles of vacuum sealed bags the contained compressed bricks of marijuana. Also, was one plastic bag containing a small amount of loose hydroponic marijuana, which is a higher grade marijuana. The other bags. The acts were covered with dishwashing liquid, which is a method commonly used by drug traffickers in the attempt to mask the odor of drugs. In total, there was 95 pounds of marijuana. Officers also found in a wadded up receipt from the California Walmart for the sale of luggage, storage bags, and dishwashing liquid from four days earlier. It was signed by the defendant.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to suppress because the record reflected a finding that the officers initial stop was illegal. The city’s highway traffic code was the same as the state code. The pertinent part of that traffic code stated that no person shall turn any vehicle without giving appropriate signal in the event any other traffic may be affected by such movement. The appellate court said the purpose of the statute is to prevent traffic accidents. The legislature’s choice of the phrase may be affected as opposed to is affected or will be affected implies and intent to give statute a broad reach. The court held that the apparent purpose of the statute is for drivers to notify other motorists in the immediate area of their intention to make a turn in order to prevent traffic accidents in other words, in the event any other traffic may be affected by such movement means that a driver must engage a turn signal when there is a reasonable possibility that other traffic may be affected.
Important to the case was that the officer testified that there were other cars on the road at the time the defendant failed to signal his left turn. As a consequence, the defendant’s failure to signal has affected the other traffic. The state does not need to prove any actual effect on the other traffic in order to prove a violation of the statute. Evidence in this case was sufficient to show a reasonable possibility that the other traffic may have been affected by the defendant’s failure to signal. Had there not been other traffic in the immediate area, this case might have been dismissed, said Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale. This traffic violation gave sufficient probable cause for the officer to stop defendant’s car.
As to the initial justification for a traffic stop, the US Supreme Court has held that as a general rule, the decision to stop a car is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. A traffic stop is valid in the fourth amendment if the stop is based on the observed traffic violation or if the police officer has reasonable articulable suspicion that a traffic or equipment violation has occurred or is occurring.
Tulsa criminal defense attorney Stephen Cale said that attention to the details of the case can make the difference between a case being dismissed at the early stage of the matter or going to trial. Call the Cale law office at 918-277-4800.