The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas announced on Jan. 29 that a Florida woman admitted to transporting illegal drugs. The 41-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident entered a guilty plea to a single count of cocaine possession with the intent to distribute on Jan. 28. The investigation that led to the woman's plea was conducted by officers from the Beaumont Police Department and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The woman was taken into custody in Aug. 23, 2019, when her vehicle was stopped on Interstate Highway 10 by the BPD for a traffic violation. Media reports do not indicate what led BPD officers to conclude that the woman's car contained illegal drugs, but they do reveal that a search of the vehicle led to the discovery of about 45 kilograms of cocaine. Officers say they found the packages of drugs concealed inside the vehicle's door panels.
A federal grand jury handed down a multi-count drug trafficking indictment against the woman on Sept. 4. Her guilty plea was part of an agreement negotiated with federal prosecutors. The charge she pleaded guilty to carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Her actual sentence will be based on prosecutor's recommendations and statutory considerations. It will be handed down after the U.S. Probation Office has completed a pre-sentence investigation.
Evidence discovered during police searches of vehicles or properties is not always admissible in court even if the officers or agents involved obtained a warrant. Searches must be based on sound probable cause, and officers may not exceed the scope of the search warrant. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may scrutinize police reports and search warrant applications to ensure that law enforcement conducted legal searches. Attorneys may seek to have the evidence discovered excluded and drug charges against their clients dismissed if the facts suggest that rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment could have been violated.