Last month a North Dakota Judge ruled that nearly 500 lbs of marijuana seized during a traffic stop could not be admitted as evidence for criminal charges against the driver and his passenger because the traffic stop itself was unconstitutional.
The story made headlines because, let’s face it, that’s a lot of marijuana and losing the ability to use it as evidence in criminal proceedings is a world-class cock up.
I’m a little late to the story, but I felt it was worth highlighting because Judge Jay Schmitz’s opinion in the matter is something to behold.
You can read the whole thing below, but here’s a quick summary of what went down.
Stutsman County Deputy Matt Thom saw a pickup truck with Minnesota plates driving along Interstate 94 here in North Dakota at a speed which was 2 miles per hour under the limit. He began following the vehicle. He ran the vehicle’s Minnesota plates and found it was registered to Nhia Lee of St. Paul. He then pulled up alongside the truck and looked at the passengers. He observed the driver operating the vehicle with his hands at the 10-and-2 position. He also observed that the driver wouldn’t look over at him and was acting nervous.
Because no law-abiding citizen would ever be nervous with a cop driving alongside them on the interstate and giving the hairy eyeball.
Anyway, the deputy found all this lawful activity to be very suspicious, so he pulled the vehicle over and found a mountain of marijuana in the back of the truck.
When this case was brought to court, the judge wasn’t buying any of that and rightfully so. The smackdown he gives the deputy is, in a word, epic.
We know now that the defendants in this case had a very large quantity of illegal drugs in their truck. They were, in fact, committing a crime. So some might be tempted to write the judge’s opprobrium as a technicality getting in the way of justice.
Only Schmitz addresses that, noting the “judicial conundrum” of giving way to a police state:
“Widespread marijuana use presents real risks to our society,” Judge Schmitz wrote in conclusion. “But the dangers of turning a blind eye to official abuses of our fundamental freedoms in the name of a ‘war on drugs’ are far greater. Slowly but constantly the Leviathan grows.”
The full opinion: