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I-80 Goldmine for Drug Busts

If you search for criminal defense attorneys in Nebraska, you’ll notice a common theme – most include a section on “I-80 drug arrests.” The reason? I-80 is a major drug trafficking route running across the country and through Nebraska, where police are happy to bust any drug smugglers they can. At times, it seems like out of state plates are a magnet for zealous enforcement, and the lawyers marketing to those arrested know this. If possible, they will get the matter tossed out of court because of a bad search.

Bad searches happen when a police officer cannot show they had probable cause for either a traffic stop or a subsequent search. That doesn’t mean the bad guys get to keep the cash or drugs seized – that still becomes subject to forfeiture by the police. So, even when charges don’t stick in court, the cops come out ahead financially.

How bad is it? Well, in a single 30 day period ending in October, there were three major drug busts on I-80. The biggest nabbed $1.5 million worth of cocaine, the second 80 pounds of marijuana and the third, another 44 pounds of weed.

One can imagine that drug traffickers are very careful about obeying traffic laws, but it doesn’t seem to matter. The 44-pounder followed a traffic stop for following too closely. After a stop, police may ask permission to search the vehicle, and if permission is denied, they can call in a drug dog to give a sniff. If the dog alerts, that constitutes probable cause for suspicion and officers are free to search, even without the driver’s consent. That’s what happened with Somvilay Vilaysak, who was found with 80 pounds of weed in his Honda Civic. A K-9 alerted on the vehicle containing the weed.

Douglas County alone has six dogs available to sniff out drugs. I-80 is big business.


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