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Broken taillights: as useful as a search warrant

A man was arrested this week in Cedar Rapids and is now facing multiple drug charges, after police found a meth lab in his vehicle. For this man, if this is his first arrest, is likely to be the beginning of a long struggle with criminal justice system. He will have to determine with the help of his attorney if he should challenge the arrest at trial or accept some form of a plea bargain.

He could be sentenced to years in prison, and even then, after he has completed all of his incarceration and parole, he will have to deal with the consequences of a felony drug conviction, which can affect where he works and lives, his voting rights and his ability to possess a firearm. 

All of these consequences can flow from the fact that it is likely police noticed his vehicle at 2:00 a.m. because it had a non-functioning brake light and plate light. In addition to his drug charges, he was charged with having "improper plate light and improper brake light."

Motorists should always make certain that their vehicle complies with all laws and regulations, both to maintain safe vehicle operation, but also because any violation invites a traffic stop.

Police traffic stops provide much of the evidence used in criminal cases, especially drug cases. When an officer walks up to your window and asks to see your license and registration, he or she is also carefully evaluating every aspect of your demeanor and examining you for signs of alcohol or drug impairment.

The officer is also looking for any evidence visible within the vehicle of other criminal activity, such as drugs, drug paraphernalia, weapons and anything else, such as items that appear to be stolen.

Simple traffic violations provide law enforcement the raw material they need to turn a broken taillight into a criminal drug arrest.

Source: kcrg.com, "Police find meth lab in Cedar Rapids man's vehicle," Lee Hermiston, The Gazette, July 8, 2015

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