Pennsylvania State Police troopers took two men into custody on the afternoon of Feb. 2 after they allegedly discovered illegal drugs and firearms during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 80. The 19-year-old and 23-year-old males are being held at the Mercer County Jail. The bonds for both men were set at $500,000 by a district magistrate, but media reports indicate that the Department of Homeland Security wants them to remain in custody because they are not in the United States legally.
The traffic stop was initiated in Wolf Creek Township on a stretch of Interstate 80 that police say is often used by drug traffickers to transport large quantities of marijuana, cocaine and opioids like heroin and fentanyl. When questioned about the arrests, an Ohio State Highway Patrol representative said that drug charges connected to seizures made on the notorious stretch of highway are often handled by federal rather than state prosecutors because of the quantity of drugs involved.
Undisclosed traffic violation
According to media reports, the Ford Focus sedan that the two men were traveling in was pulled over for an undisclosed traffic violation. However, initial accounts do not reveal what led the troopers who made the stop to suspect that the vehicle was being used to transport illegal drugs. They do state that a search of the car allegedly led to the discovery of approximately 9 pounds of fentanyl worth about $600,000 and a loaded handgun.
Fourth Amendment questions
Cases like this one often hinge on the admissibility of evidence discovered by police officers who conducted warrantless searches. The courts allow police to act without first obtaining a search warrant in situations where they have clear probable cause, but they are not permitted to search individuals, automobiles or residences based on suspicion alone.