Law enforcement officers have to have probable cause to make a traffic stop: speeding, running a stop light, or driving erratically, for example. If a police officer, sheriff's deputy, or highway patrol trooper observes these or similar behaviors, he or she typically has sufficient cause to make the stop.
Traffic Stops Often Lead to Serious Charges
What happens next depends in large part upon the behavior of the driver. In most cases, a traffic stop ends with a warning or a traffic ticket--but in some cases, the behavior of the driver or passengers gives an officer probable cause for a search or arrest.
In the case of a DUI arrest, for example, the initial traffic stop comes from the observed driving behavior, but the arrest comes following an officer's observance of details indicating alcohol impairment: slurred speech, the odor of alcohol, inability to focus.
Sometimes, a law enforcement officer may suspect something is amiss if the driver seems inappropriately nervous. Such is the case with a traffic stop that led to a drug trafficking arrest along I-44 near Catoosa earlier this week.
Drug Trafficking Bust in Rogers County OK
A Rogers County Sheriff's Deputy says he noticed a vehicle change lanes in front of him without signaling. He pulled the vehicle over, expecting to issue a warning and send the vehicle on its way; however, the driver seemed so nervous about the traffic stop that he decided she must be hiding something.
The deputy claims that Chanele Pauley, 33, began breathing heavily and "passing gas" after she was pulled over. The arrest report says the woman began shaking and that the deputy could clearly see her carotid artery pulsing in her neck, signs which "are not seen while speaking with the general motoring public," according to Rogers County K9 Deputy Scotty Moree.
The deputy questioned Pauley further about where she was traveling, and she allegedly indicated that she and her passenger were traveling to Missouri. The passenger, identified as Walter Rawls, 43, allegedly told the deputy that the pair was headed to North Carolina.
Because of Pauley's extreme nervousness and the pair's conflicting stories, Deputy Moree had his K9 sniff the vehicle. The drug dog hit on the trunk, where deputies discovered four packages wrapped as Christmas presents. They opened the presents and found 8-1/2 pounds of meth inside.
Both Were Arrested on Trafficking Charges
Pauley and Rawls were both arrested on drug trafficking charges.
According to Oklahoma's Trafficking in Illegal Drugs Act, possession of 20 or more grams of methamphetamine is sufficient for a charge of drug trafficking. Penalties for meth trafficking follow:
- twenty (20) grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of amphetamine or methamphetamine shall be punishable by a fine of not less than Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) and not more than Two Hundred Thousand Dollars ($200,000.00),
- two hundred (200) grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of amphetamine or methamphetamine shall be punishable by a fine of not less than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) and not more than Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00), or
- four hundred fifty (450) grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of amphetamine or methamphetamine shall be deemed aggravated trafficking punishable by a fine of not less than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) and not more than Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00);
In all cases, drug trafficking is punishable by no less than twice the penalty associated with drug possession; therefore, meth trafficking is punishable by a minimum of 4 years in prison. However, possession of 450 or more grams of meth is considered aggravated trafficking; 8-1/2 pounds would be more than 3,600 grams. Aggravated drug trafficking carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison. Additionally, it is an 85 percent crime requiring anyone convicted to serve 85 percent of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
With a mandatory minimum of nearly 13 years in prison if convicted, it is no wonder the driver was so nervous.