Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The One That Got Away: Marty's Excellent Road Trip

State v. Diaz, no. 08-0615 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2009).

Diaz and friends were en route from Los Angeles to Chicago in two cars when they encountered a ruse drug checkpoint. A sign was posted saying "Warning: Drug Checkpoint 2 miles. Be prepared to stop."

In reality police were waiting at a rest stop to see who was going to take the opportunity to de-stash themselves. After some palaver, the occupants of the two vehicles split up. Diaz and others went down Rte. 80 in the Jeep while the rented Escape remained in the rest area. Agents interviewed the occupants of the Escape and obtained consent to search, which produced 101 pounds of marijuana.

The Jeep was stopped in Illinois with Diaz driving but no contraband was seized.

Diaz was charged with possession with intent to distribute and drug tax stamp violations. He argued that the element of possession necessary to convict was insufficient as a matter of law.

The court of appeals agreed and held that there was no specific evidence linking Diaz to the marijuana seized from the rented Ford Escape, although Diaz had been in conversation with the driver, admitted that he was in company with them, and had actually been photographed sitting in the driver's seat of the Escape.

The takehome's clear-we're going to have to work hard at tying together the members of a convoy. It seems as if this posse was pretty well prepared as they'd tightly wrapped their cargo and covered it with fabric softener sheets to kill the odor.

Nonetheless we can take comfort in the fact that Diaz and his posse were caused a great deal of trouble and lost their stash, which no doubt caused them some grief with their financiers and providers of inventory.


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