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Small infractions can make for bigger busts

By PoliceOne Staff

There’s been continued discussion relative to the wisdom of pursuing small traffic infractions, particularly if the driver decides to run. Something to keep in mind is that, as pointed out in Tactics for Criminal Patrol by Chuck Remsberg, seemingly trivial traffic infractions can sometimes result in major busts. Consider the following examples Remsberg shares:

Two Texas officers were following behind a car when it changed lanes and quickly cut in front of three tractor trailers after the turn signal blinked only once, far short of the minimum 100 feet Texas requires between signaling and lane changes. When officers stopped the car they found a noticeably nervous driver and conflicting stories between him and his female passenger as to what they were doing and where they were going. Sensing that something was clearly amiss, they asked and received consent to search the vehicle. Inside, they found a kilo of coke. Bad lane change parlayed into a drug bust.

In Illinois, a trooper and his supervisor were going over patrol assignments at a rest area when they spotted a man sleeping in a BMW with Florida plates and what appeared to be a shattered rear window. When the man woke up and drove away a short time later, the trooper pulled him over for failing to signal his merge onto the highway and for driving with an obstructed rear window. After finding that the driver was not the owner of the vehicle and had a record of weapons and drug violations, a K-9 was deployed and coke was found in the vehicle and on the driver. A basic bad merge turns into a really bad day for a drug runner.

One night in Wyoming a highway patrolman spotted a Volvo with an out-of-state dealer plate whiz by him. In that state, dealers transporting vehicle from out of state must stop at the border and register it after which a sticker will be issued to put in the back window. It was too dark to see if the vehicle had such a sticker so the trooper stopped the car to investigate. When he approached, he found the driver to be extremely nervous, which seemed odd for someone who may have done nothing—or very little—wrong. Deciding to look beyond the seemingly small purpose for the initial stop, the trooper decided to ask for permission to look in the trunk. When he got it, he found half a dozen duffle bags filled with pot—surfaced after a hunt for a simple vehicle sticker.

Lastly, a Missouri trooper stooped a man who was driving 10 miles under the speed limit on a rural road, causing a considerable traffic back-up. When asked for the usual paperwork, the man produced a temporary, handwritten, photoless, out-of-state license and a handwritten registration application. The driver was nervous and was clearly trying to hide the other contents of his wallet while retrieving the things he gave the trooper. Responding to the red flags he was seeing, the trooper asked for and received consent to search the car. Inside he found burglary tools, instructions for cracking safes and making false IDs and a load gun. Turns out the guy was wanted on two federal warrants.

Small infractions can make for bigger busts.

For more read: Turning a routine ticket into a big-time bust

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