OKLAHOMA COUNTY DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES IN OKC, OKLAHOMA
Three major interstate highways converge in Oklahoma City. The interstates include I-35 (north and south), I-40 (east and west) and I-44 (east and west). These highways meet virtually at the center of the United States, so many drug couriers from all over the country pass through Oklahoma City and Tulsa. There are at least two locations with drug interdiction agents sitting in the median of the Interstate highways. Those locations approximately two miles apart include where I-35 N and I-44 W converge and again where I-44 S and I-35 S converge. COMIT – the Central Oklahoma Metro Interdiction Team – patrols those two areas. They also work with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Oklahoma County Sheriff, and the Oklahoma City Police Department. The drug crimes investigated and charged include drug trafficking and aggravated drug trafficking, possession of CDS with intent to distribute, simple possession of drugs, money laundering, and forfeiture of assets (mostly cars and money) and guns used in the facilitation of drug crimes.
COMIT officers are merely drug cops with the Oklahoma City Police Department and Oklahoma County Sheriff. They have only one purpose – drug interdiction. They are looking for drugs and drug money. They intend to file felony drug charges in Oklahoma County if they find anything and to forfeit the money to the State of Oklahoma! In Oklahoma County, there is a specific team of Assistant District Attorneys assigned to the COMIT cases. Charges might be filed in State court in Oklahoma County or in federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
What is drug trafficking in Oklahoma County? 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).
The COMIT 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 travelling 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.
THE TRAFFIC STOP
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 COMIT officers 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 (1) travel plans — where you have been and where you are going, (2) how long you’ve been traveling, (3) where you have stopped, (4) names of the other persons in the car, (5) nervousness, and (6) ultimately whether you would object to allowing the officer to search the car. 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 (1) do you have any drugs, (2) do you have any large sums of cash or currency, (3) do you have any weapons?
DRUG DOG K-9 SNIFF SEARCH
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.
SEARCHES & SEIZURES
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.
Do NOT agree to any search of your car, luggage, containers, or your body. Do not talk with others in the squad car once the police put you in the SUV. 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.
ARRESTED & TAKEN TO WAREHOUSE FOR INTERROGATION
Beware, once they seize you and your car, they will take you to a warehouse in Oklahoma City. 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 OKC COMIT warehouse, you will be placed in an interrogation room. The police are recording the events (whether in a police squad car, an interrogation room, or elsewhere). 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.
Do NOT make any statements. Do NOT confess to anything. Do NOT call a friend and tell them what is happening. Do NOT text anyone warning about the traffic stop and arrest.
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 Oklahoma County Jail in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If federal charges are filed, you will go to jail either in Grady County or Logan County.
SUPPRESSION OF EVIDENCE
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.
YOU NEED AN ATTORNEY
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.
EXPERIENCED OKLAHOMA COUNTY DRUG TRAFFICKING LAWYERS & ATTORNEYS
Call the Wyatt Law Office at 405.234.5500 for your Oklahoma County Drug Lawyers & Attorneys. Your future is our business.
Drug Evidence Suppressed in Federal Court. Wyatt and Scott Graham teamed up arguing and convincing the federal court to suppress evidence obtained after a “routine” traffic stop pursuant to an open air drug dog sniff search. During an illegal search, Troopers found 3,000 Oxycontin pills, multiple fake I.D.s, fake prescriptions, and over $17,000 cash. All evidence suppressed and case dismissed.*
Case dismissed after preliminary hearing in case where client was charged with CDS trafficking when 35 pounds of meth seized in car. Client was looking at 15 years to life in prison and had a former trafficking conviction.
Police officer charged in federal court with 62 counts, including multiple conspiracy and drug distribution and money laundering charges. Jury verdict of “NOT GUILTY” on all drug, conspiracy and money laundering counts. Charges carried life in prison if convicted.
Client charged with trafficking more than 300 pounds of marijuana after former drug conviction. Wyatt negotiated two-year sentence (less than the mandatory 4 years to life).