Along I-40 in central Oklahoma is a little town called El Reno. It is the county seat of Canadian County about 30 miles from Oklahoma City. About 5 to 10 miles west of El Reno, you will generally see two or more unmarked SUVs sitting in the median with one SUV facing each direction on I-40 East and I-40 West. They are drug cops with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) or with the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office. They have only one purpose – drug interdiction. They are looking for drugs and drug money. They intend to file felony drug charges in Canadian County if they find anything and to forfeit the money to the State of Oklahoma!
Cocaine or Crack Cocaine
30 tablets or 10 grams
Trafficking can occur even with small, but distributable quantities.
Trafficking is punishable in Oklahoma generally by 4 years to life imprisonment (or two times the range of punishment for possession with intent to distribute). If the client has a prior felony drug conviction, the punishment range is three times the range (generally 6 years to life). There are substantial monetary fines in addition to the mandatory imprisonment.
Aggravated Trafficking is punishable by 15 years to life in prison and the client must serve 85% of the sentence before being eligible for parole. If a client has two or more felony convictions (at any time) for violations of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Act (effectively any felony drug crimes), the range of punishment for trafficking is 20 years-to-LWOP (life without parole).
These officers don’t write traffic tickets, but they write a lot of warnings. They are drug-profiling and often racial profiling: looking for young people traveling in rental cars either alone or with a passenger; two cars traveling in tandem with one as the “scout car” for diversion and one as the drug car; looking for young people of color; asking questions about travel purposes and destinations.
They will separate the driver and passengers to challenge the stories and hope to find inconsistencies, nervousness, driver’s license issues, guns, odor of marijuana, drugs in plain sight, etc. They will engage you in consensual conversations and ask to search your car.
JUST SAY “NO.” You have a 4th Amendment right to be free from any unreasonable searches and seizures.
The typical scenario involves the OBN agent pulling over a rental car or a personal car or van for an illegal lane change or failure to use a signal for the proper distance, speeding one or two miles per hour over the speed limit or such other minor traffic or equipment infraction. Immediately, the driver is told that he will only be issued a warning, and the officer requests the driver’s license and proof of insurance.
The officer will separate the driver from the passengers by taking the driver to the patrol car. While running the driver’s license with dispatch, the officer will question the driver and then the passenger separately looking for clues or body language such as:
If the driver and passengers stories are inconsistent in any little way, then “you must be drug dealers.” They intend to arrest you.
QUESTIONS: “Do you have any drugs, money or weapons?”
Once the dispatcher “clears” the driver for any warrants, the officer writes a warning ticket and returns the license and insurance verification. Then as the driver starts to exit the patrol car, the officer asks, “Can I ask you a couple of questions?” The driver always says yes.
The officer will then ask:
The next question is do you mind if I search your car? If the driver says no, then the officer searches (often with a drug detector dog). If the driver says “yes, I do mind and do not consent,” then the officer still takes a drug detector dog around the perimeter of the car for a so-called open air sniff. Most often, the dog will sit at some point giving an indication of the odor of drugs (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin).
If no drugs are found, the officers claim that sometime in the past few days, the car or person has possessed one of these drugs or that there is a large sum of money in the car that has been in contact with these drugs.
These officers will search your car and all containers (luggage, purses, duffel bags, etc.) on the side of the road. They will use a drug dog or K-9 cop. The dog almost always alerts (and alerts in a passive manner like sitting down). Once the dog “hits,” the cops have probable cause to search and will tear up the car if necessary to find the drugs or drug money.
They are recording everything you say. It is possible that they will search without your consent, and there is nothing you can do about that, but do NOT voluntarily agree to a search.
Beware, once they seize you and your car, they will take you to a warehouse. You will be recorded by the officer from the minute he stops you. There are body microphones on the cops and car recorders in the car (both a dash cam and an interior camera). They are recording you every minute of the stop whether the cop is in the car or not. Often they will place you in the squad car with your passenger hoping you will “confess” or tell the other person not to “say anything.”
At the warehouse, you will be placed in an interrogation room. The police are recording (whether in an interrogation room or the police squad car). They will make you sit there for long periods of time to scare you. They will ask questions and tell you what they found or didn’t find.
You are eventually going to jail, but they want to tear up the car first and find the evidence or get you to confess. Then you are off to jail in the Canadian County Jail in El Reno, Oklahoma. If federal charges are filed, you will be transported either to Grady County or Logan County.
It may be possible to suppress evidence (meaning to exclude evidence) if the facts and circumstances allow. See our Search & Seizure page.
By way of example, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that “Police may not extend an otherwise-completed traffic stop, absent reasonable suspicion, in order to conduct dog sniff . . . .” Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (April 15, 2015). That ruling, however, is narrowly written, but the Supreme Court reiterated that a “traffic stop ‘prolonged beyond’ the ‘time reasonably required to complete [the stop’s] mission’ is unlawful.” See Rodriguez (citing Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. at 407).
Please understand that there are so many exceptions to the Fourth Amendment that the “fruits” of the search may be allowed — particularly in searches of vehicles (rather than search of your home). These exceptions often include plain view, plain smell, exigent circumstances, search incident to arrest, inventory or impound search, good faith of the officers, etc.
RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT – Keep your mouth shut!
You have a right to remain silent or anything you say can be used against you. Exercise your rights. Demand to see a lawyer and tell the officers that you will NOT make a statement without a lawyer present. You cannot harm your case by demanding a lawyer. In these circumstances, the officers are not your “friends.” They are looking to put you in jail — for what may be up to life in prison.
Possession with intent to distribute and distribution carry anywhere from 2 years to life under Oklahoma law. So the best course of action is to seek an attorney and keep your mouth shut. Silence is always the best advice.
If any of this description sounds familiar, you need an attorney. Whether you are arrested for possession or distribution of CDS or drug proceeds or whether the interdiction team merely seized your money, you need an attorney. These are tricky cases. Does this sound familiar? Officers do not always follow the letter of the law, so it may be possible that any evidence found be subject to suppression (i.e., that it cannot be used in court). In other situations, the officers have followed the law, and you need counsel to negotiate the best deal possible or to take the matter to trial. That is what we do.
Call the Wyatt Law Office at 405.234.5500 for your Canadian County Drug Lawyers & Attorneys. Your future is our business.