A federal appeals court in New Mexico recently decided that properly operating a vehicle, in accordance with the laws of the road, is reasonable suspicion for police to conduct a traffic stop, even when there is no evidence to suggest a motorist is guilty of breaking any laws. To top it off, the court also ruled that officers have the right to suspect people plagued with facial acne of drug smuggling.
In 2012, Border Patrol Agent Joshua Semmerling passed a white Ford truck at 60 MPH along Highway 80 when he claimed to notice several suspicious factors: the driver was sitting up straight and appeared to have her hands at the “ten-and-two” position, the windows were tinted, and her plates were from out-of-state.
That is when the agent decided to pull a U-turn and stop the driver, Cindy Lee Westhoven from Arizona. Even though Mrs. Westhoven had not committed a crime, did not have any outstanding warrants, and was able to prove she was a citizen of the United States, Agent Semmerling still asked to search her vehicle based on the fact that she had facial acne -- a sign, he claims, is indicative to methamphetamine use.
Mrs. Westhoven, however, did not consent to the search, which led to the agent unleashing a drug-sniffing dog and eventually discovering a small amount of marijuana. Westhoven was taken into custody shortly thereafter.
In court, Westhoven’s attorney argued that her arrest should be thrown out of court because the reasons the agent gave for pulling her over in the first place were questionable. However, the judge denied his request to overturn the case and instead sided with the agent.
“Driving stiffly, having tinted windows, slowing down when seeing law enforcement, and driving in an out-of-the-way area may be innocent conduct by themselves,” wrote Judge Scott M. Matheson, Jr. on behalf of the appellate panel. “But when taken together along with driving a vehicle with out-of-state plates in a mountainous smuggling corridor 40-45 miles away from the border, we conclude Agent Semmerling had reasonable suspicion Ms. Westhoven was involved in smuggling activity.”
Wash your face, America… you’re going to need all the help you can get.
Mike Adams writes for stoners and smut enthusiasts in HIGH TIMES, Playboy’s The Smoking Jacket and Hustler Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook/mikeadams73.