Cheyenne, WY – Wyoming’s highest court overturned the conviction of a man busted in possession of 42 pounds of marijuana because the state trooper who stopped him was speeding.
The arrest occurred in August of 2018 while Wyoming Highway Patrol (WHP) Trooper Shane Carraher was monitoring traffic from the median of Interstate 80 near Cheyenne, Cowboy State Daily reported.
The Wyoming Supreme Court said in its ruling on April 20 that Joshua David Levenson was a passenger in a vehicle that passed Trooper Carraher.
“While initially not having observed any traffic violation, Trooper Carraher decided to catch up to (the car),” the ruling read. “To do so, he drove in both the left and right lanes of traffic at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour, reaching approximately 111 miles per hour at one point.”
The justices said in their ruling that the state trooper should not having been driving more than 100 mph to catch the suspect vehicle, Cowboy State Daily reported.
Trooper Carraher caught up to the car that Levenson was riding in and reduced his speed to about 54 mph to follow it, according to the justices.
The trooper determined that the suspect vehicle was traveling about 1.2 seconds behind a tractor trailer rather than the two seconds required by law, Cowboy State Daily reported
Trooper Carraher stopped the car Levenson was riding in for following the semi-truck too closely.
Then he asked for a police K9 drug to respond to the scene to check for illegal drugs, according to the justices.
The narcotics dog indicated there were drugs in the vehicle and a search revealed 42 pounds of marijuana concealed in the car, Cowboy State Daily reported.
Levenson was arrested and charged with felony intent to deliver a controlled substance and felony possession of a controlled substance.
At trial, attorneys for Levenson argued that the traffic stop had been unreasonable and the marijuana should not be admitted into evidence, Cowboy State Daily reported.
Defense attorneys also argued that Trooper Carraher’s driving presented a hazard to the public.
But the state district court rejected the request and Levenson ultimately pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, Cowboy State Daily reported.
However, the defendant reserved his right to appeal the ruling that had allowed the marijuana into evidence.
Wyoming Supreme Court justices said that the lower court had failed to take into account the fact that Trooper Carraher drove dangerously to catch up with the suspect vehicle despite not having observed any traffic violations, Cowboy State Daily reported.
“Based on the circumstances of this case as discussed above, Trooper Carraher’s conduct violated the reasonable suspicion necessary to justify the initial traffic stop,” the high court’s ruling read. “Our… review of the ultimate determination regarding the constitutionality of the initial stop in this case leads us to conclude that the initial traffic stop was unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment (protection against unreasonable search and seizure).”
The justices reversed Levenson’s conviction based on their ruling, Cowboy State Daily reported.