High court rejects illegal drug evidence in traffic stop
July 18, 2013
The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld an Elko judge's decision to toss out drug evidence seized after a traffic stop, saying the driver's constitutional rights were violated.
Kent Beckman was stopped for speeding, given a warning by the trooper and told "everything looks good."
But when Beckman tried to leave, the officer ordered him to remain until a drug-sniffing dog could arrive. The dog alerted his handler to the presence of drugs, a search found cocaine and methamphetamine in the vehicle, and Beckman was arrested and charged.
"A traffic stop that is legitimate when initiated becomes illegitimate when the officer detains the car and driver beyond the time required to process the traffic offense," justices said in a unanimous opinion.
Detaining the driver must be justified by his or her consent or a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
"The prolonged stop in this case met none of these exceptions and violated the United States and Nevada Constitutions," the opinion states.
The high court pointed out that, as seen in the videotape, Beckman was polite and responsive throughout the stop. But he exercised his right to deny the officer permission to search the vehicle, after which the trooper told Beckman he was no longer free to leave. Elko District Judge Michael Memeo initially tossed the drug evidence.
Senate to hear gaming rules
The U.S. Senate subcommittee on consumer protection has scheduled a hearing today on what Nevada Republican Dean Heller described as the "patchwork of state laws and regulations for online gambling."
He said the concern is whether those laws, now enacted in 20 states, may put consumers at risk and undermine law enforcement.
The Justice Department has opened he door for individual states to authorize online gambling for intrastate wagers. Nevada lawmakers passed this state's internet gambling law as an emergency measure in the 2013 session.
"As a result, numerous states are actively pursuing the legalization of Internet gaming," Heller said. "However, gambling is regulated at the state level, so the lack of uniform standards and protections may pose increased risks to consumers and obstacles to law enforcement." The hearing chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will begin at 7 a.m.