For nearly 20 years, I have represented clients charged with transportation of marijuana for sale all over the State of Arizona, including in Maricopa, LaPaz, Yavapai, and Coconino Counties. There’s no question that police have stepped up their game and added some new tricks to their toy box of investigative techniques designed to stopped those who transport marijuana for sale to, through, and in Arizona.
MY USUAL LEGAL DISCLAIMER
I am a criminal defense attorney who is based in Phoenix and regularly represent clients in Arizona federal and state courts who are charged with marijuana trafficking offenses, including conspiracy, possession for sale, and transportation for sale. My no means do I ever encourage anyone to break the law and, in fact, I urge people to strictly follow it. Doing so dramatically increases your odds of needing to hire someone like me to represent you. The information that I share about police tactics and techniques are by no means intended to give anyone idea about how to break, or even skirt the law. Rather, the information I share is solely the anecdotal commentary of an experienced criminal defense attorney who has observed the evolution of marijuana prosecution and defense over my (just about) 23 years in practice.
THE TYPICAL FACT PATTERN
If you are reading this, you have a pretty good idea that California law allows for the recreational use of marijuana. And while California requires that all marijuana sold in dispensaries be cultivated in a licensed grow facility, the reality is that not all of the marijuana grown makes it to the dispensary. Often times, the back door of the grow is left open and the marijuana grows proverbial legs and walks out the door into the trunk of a car that is headed east, usually through Arizona.
Arizona Department of Public Safety Troopers are pretty well aware of this fact and are waiting along highways such as Interstate 10, Interstate 40, Interstate 15, and Interstate 17 to poach those who pass through the state while transporting marijuana for sale.
THE NEW SHINY TOY / LICENSE PLATE READERS
If you have driven on a major interstate freeway lately, you may have noticed what looks like a cluster of cameras attached to a pole. These are what’s known as license plate readers (LPR’s). LPR’s digitally scan passing license plates and upload them into a database maintained by DEA, the FBI, or another federal law enforcement agency.
LPR’S are high-speed, computer-controlled camera systems that are typically mounted on street poles, streetlights, highway overpasses, mobile trailers, or attached to police squad cars. LPR’s automatically capture all license plate numbers that come into view, along with the location, date, and time. The data, which includes photographs of the vehicle and sometimes its driver and passengers, is then uploaded to a central server.
People who transport marijuana for sale typically drive west through Arizona, do their business in California, and quickly turn around and head east back to deliver their load. While travelling west, the LPR’s scan their plates, quite innocuously at that. What they don’t realize is on the return trip, when a trooper profiles their car and runs it through the DEA database, it is immediately known the car headed in the opposite direction a short time prior.
Armed with this information, and the observation of a minor traffic infraction (for legal reasons, of course), a traffic stop is made. The questioning begins and is bound to result in some sort of false statement or inconsistency; particularly when it comes to travel plans as the LPR will prove. The next thing you know, a police K-9 shows up on scene and starts alerting to the scent of marijuana, search is conducted, someone ends up going to jail, and a criminal defense attorney like yours truly gets called.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
LPR’s only help police when the same plate is detected. As I have said many times, and in other blogs if you have read them, it amazes me how people who transport marijuana for sale do not think about these things, particularly when engaging in a crime that carries mandatory prison in Arizona.
If you (or someone you know) is one of those people who didn’t think these things through well enough, we should probably talk. Confidential consultations can be scheduled by calling (602) 663-9100. Again, your best bet is to follow the law. But if for some reason this is not the route you took, your only real option is to hire an Arizona criminal defense attorney who is experienced at defending cases involving transportation of marijuana for sale cases.