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Women cleared for lack of knowledge in drug trafficking case

A California man has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges after an officer reportedly found a significant amount of several illegal substances in the man's vehicle. The 34-year-old man has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges including possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. It does not appear that an illegal search and/or seizure occurred in the case, in which bundles of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin were located in the man's vehicle. The key part of this case: Two women who were in the vehicle with the defendant were cleared of charges after their lack of knowledge about the drugs was established.

Authorities say they found about 8 pounds of cocaine, 24 pounds of meth and 4 pounds of heroin in the vehicle. Those drugs had reportedly been hidden in several door panels inside the vehicle. Field tests showed that the substances were illegal drugs. This defendant was reportedly riding in the car as a passenger when the substances were discovered. It appears that everyone riding in the vehicle agreed to allow the officer to look through the car without a formal search warrant during the traffic stop.

The defendant in this case is facing serious consequences for his drug offenses. He could be imprisoned for up to four decades, and he could also be required to pay fines up to $5 million, according to authorities. He remains in federal custody while awaiting sentencing.

The two women who were traveling with the defendant could have very easily been caught up in the criminal proceedings if the man had not voluntarily cleared their name. Lack of knowledge can sometimes be a reasonable defense against drug crimes, though, especially in this type of situation. No one should be wrongfully convicted of drug offenses just because they innocently happened to be in a vehicle when drugs were found.

Source: Amarillo Globe-News, "Man pleads guilty to federal drug charges" Jim McBride, May. 20, 2014

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