Arrests for serious crimes can be triggered by the most minor of traffic stops. Although the infraction may have nothing to do with the criminal charges lodged against the driver, it's usually enough for a police officer to take a closer look and eventually arrest a driver and/or the passengers on suspicion of a crime, if it exists.
A woman from Hamburg, New Jersey, discovered this last week when she was arrested on drug charges after being pulled over for having items hanging from her rearview mirror. According to a Wayne Police Department captain, the officer asked the driver to step out of the car for a field interview after noticing that she was nervous. The captain said that's when the officer noticed something sticking through the woman's shirt and asked her to remove it. It was a syringe, which prompted the officer to ask the woman if she had any other needles or controlled substances in the car. The woman admitted that both she and her passenger had heroin in their possession, the captain said.
News reports say that after the officer noticed the passenger moving around in the car, he said he would be searching it. Although the search of the car turned up nothing, the passenger admitted to having syringes in her purse and said the one in the driver's shirt belonged to her, and that she'd asked the driver to hold it for her. She was released, while the driver was charged with possession of heroin and possession of drug paraphernalia for the syringe. She was also charged with operating a motor vehicle in possession of a controlled dangerous substance and obstructed windshield -- that minor infraction that prompted the traffic stop in the first place.
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unlawful search and seizure. In other words, police can't search your home or vehicle without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The arresting officer in this case reported that the driver was acting nervous. If you've ever been pulled over for by a police officer for any reason at all, you may have felt the same way even if you haven't done anything wrong. In this case, the officer decided the driver's nerves gave him enough cause to have her step out of the car and question her further. In turn she volunteered information that he might not have discovered otherwise, leading to serious charges that she'll now have to face in court.
Source: NorthJersey.com, "Woman arrested on drug charges after routine stop," Debra Winters, Jan. 19, 2012