Well, at least they won’t have to give him his pot back. Robert Dale Lee was arrested in September of last year on what appeared to be a routine traffic stop. At the stop, Kentucky State Troopers “happened” to have a drug sniffing dog on hand. The dog followed its nose to a gargantuan stash of marijuana, 150 pounds’ worth, to be exact. Robert Dale Lee went into custody, lawyered up, and now, months later, stands to be a free man.
It turned out that the routine traffic stop was not routine at all. The Drug Enforcement Administration had their eye on Lee for months, suspecting he was buying large portions of marijuana in Chicago, then shipping it to northern Kentucky and reselling it there. Lee was on parole at the time; and the GPS tracking device was installed on his truck, apparently in secrecy, while Lee met with the parole officer.
Lee then allegedly went to Chicago and purchased 150 pounds of marijuana. The DEA called the Kentucky state police after the accused crossed state lines. The police drummed up a probable cause, pulled Lee over, and instituted a search, allegedly with consent.
A Traffic Stop or Not a Traffic Stop?
The crux of the Robert Dale Lee case is the question of why he was arrested. As a result of a U.S. Supreme court ruling this year, no law enforcement may track a suspect without a warrant from a judge. The DEA did not obtain that warrant before placing the tracking device.
However, the DEA was hoping to work around the law by drumming up a routine traffic stop in order to get Lee arrested on the spot. The DEA planted the GPS device, tracked the vehicle into Kentucky, and then set the trap for Lee. So was, the resulting arrest directly related to the illegal planting of a GPS tracking device for law enforcement purposes? According to the courts, it was.
In the continuing battle of GPS law, law enforcement agencies, once extremely dependent on warrant-free GPS tracking of suspects, are looking for loopholes. Placing a GPS on a vehicle and setting up a routine traffic stop is apparently not a good loophole—sage advice for the law enforcement professional against foolhardily putting that GPS on a vehicle.