If you see a “Drug Checkpoint” sign on the interstate, and you then exit the interstate, you could be stopped for any minor equipment violation or moving violation – rolling through a stop sign or having window tint that’s too dark, for example.

These officers bring police dogs that conduct a “perimeter search” of a vehicle that’s been stopped. If the dogs indicate that drugs are in a vehicle, that vehicle will be searched, and if drugs are found, it’s possible that the driver and any passengers could be arrested.

What should you do if you are stopped because of a phony drug checkpoint? Can you avoid this kind of legal trouble? You’re about to learn those answers.

HOW CAN YOU AVOID “DRUG CHECKPOINT” TROUBLE?

South Florida police agencies usually conduct these “drug checkpoint” operations when they know traffic will be thick – weekends, holidays, and during major sports and music events. If you drive past a “Drug Checkpoint” sign on the interstate, keep driving. There is no checkpoint.

But if you exit the interstate to avoid a drug checkpoint, the police will be ready to pull you over, search your vehicle, and arrest you. They’ll have drug-sniffing dogs and tow trucks to help them.

Your best strategy is a low profile. Don’t vape while you drive, and get rid of dark window film, bumper stickers, flashy rims, and anything else that might catch the eye of a police officer. Drive at or below the speed limit, come to a full stop at stop signs, and always use your turn signals.

WHAT IF THE POLICE STOP YOU?

If the police stop you, pull over safely and at once. Place your hands atop the steering wheel. Do not try to explain anything to the police. Be polite, but exercise your right to remain silent.

All that you are required to tell the police is your name and address. Beyond that, you can simply say, “I would prefer to exercise my right to remain silent.” Do not consent to a search of your vehicle, but do not – ever – physically resist the police.

If you receive a ticket or a warning, you can ask if you are free to leave. You’ll probably be dismissed, but if you’re not, tell the police that you’d like to talk to a lawyer. Then say nothing more. Be polite, but be firm in the exercise of your rights.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD SOUTH FLORIDA DRIVERS KNOW?

Florida makes those charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession (20 grams or less) or with third-degree felony marijuana possession (from twenty grams to twenty-five pounds) eligible for a drug diversion program – if there is no evidence of sale or intent to sell.

However, some Florida prosecutors argue that any amount of pot over a half-pound indicates an intent to sell. Courts in several counties – Okeechobee, Martin, and St. Lucie – have agreed and denied diversion program eligibility to those charged with possessing over a half-pound of pot.

Kratom is legal in Florida, but in several south Florida cases, kratom powder has field-tested positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana), leading to wrongful arrests and unnecessary inconvenience. It may be legal, but it’s best to leave the kratom at home.

WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A DEFENSE LAWYER?

If you are charged in connection with a phony “drug checkpoint” in central or south Florida, or if you are charged with any violation of Florida’s drug laws, you must be advised and represented by a qualified criminal defense attorney, and you must contact that attorney at once.

Stuart criminal defense attorney Barbara Kibbey Wagner advises, “Do not make any statements, ask for a lawyer, and call a highly experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.” To learn more about Attorney Barbara Kibbey Wagner’s advice, read here: https://www.issuu.com/palmbeachcannabis/docs/pbc_issue_2/14

If you are charged with a drug crime in Florida, a good defense attorney’s help is your right. Get that help at once. Your future could depend on it.