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Charges Dropped; Suspects Left Airport With 125 Lbs Marijuana

Every now and then, our side wins one.

News 4 Jax

Getting caught leaving an airport with 125 pounds of marijuana is normally pretty bad news. But two men arrested in Florida last January had a much better outcome, reports News 4 Jax.

Florida troopers arrested Artez Ward and Michael Lewis after they left Jacksonville International Airport. Police stopped the two with 125 pounds of Cannabis in six suitcases. The men would have been facing a mandatory minimum of three years in prison if convicted for marijuana trafficking charges.

Police, however, had to drop those charges.

K-9 Alerted To The Weed After Pullover

Troopers said that after a K-9 positively alerted to the presence of weed, they searched the vehicle. There, they say they found 108 vacuum-sealed bags filled with 125 pounds of pot inside six suitcases.

Troopers also found Jacksonville baggage claim tickets connected to the luggage.

According to the arrest report, three men were inside of the vehicle. One of them said he was just there to pick the other two up at the airport. Officers arrested those two men, Ward and Lewis.

The lack of actual proof of the suitcases’ ownership forced the prosecutor to drop the charges. This is because the defendants never made any comments to the troopers who pulled them over and because there was no bodycam video. Therefore, the prosecutor simply could not prove ownership of the suitcases.

No Proof Of Ownership

John Halzbour is an attorney who’s an expert on the legal defense of drug possession cases. Halzbour said if authorities had surveillance video from the airport baggage claim, the prosecutor would have likely had a stronger case to pursue.

“That would have tied the suitcases to these individuals,” Halzbour said. ”But a roadside stop where these individuals are detained and arrested, it’s not their vehicle. They were not driving.

“How does the government make the case to put those pieces of property with those individuals absent those external pieces of evidence? That’s critical,” Holzbaur said.

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