The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana announced on July 1 that a Baton Rouge man will spend 78 months in a federal corrections facility on weapons and narcotics charges. The 31-year-old man will also serve three years of supervised release after completing his custodial sentence. The sentence was handed down in accordance with the terms of a plea agreement. In return for a more lenient sentence, the man pleaded guilty to charges of using a firearm to further drug trafficking activities and possessing heroin with the intent to distribute.
The man’s legal problems began when he was pulled over for speeding by Baton Rouge Police Department officers in April 2019. The officers say that they ordered the man out of his vehicle after detecting the odor of marijuana. A thorough search of the vehicle was conducted when the officers allegedly noticed a plastic bag containing a substance believed to be heroin in plain sight. When they searched the car, the officers say that they found a loaded gun on the floor in close proximity to the center console.
The U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case said that the sentence could deter others from using guns while committing drug offenses. During the investigation that led to the man’s prosecution, the Baton Rouge Police Department was assisted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Serious narcotics and weapons cases often begin with a routine traffic stop. While juries may be swayed by drugs or guns found inside vehicles, experienced criminal defense attorneys could argue that this type of evidence should be excluded if the police officers involved failed to obtain a search warrant and acted without probable cause. Attorneys could also seek to have criminal charges dismissed in these situations if police officers are not able to provide a valid reason for initiating a traffic stop in the first place.