By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The conviction of a man who was arrested in 2019 with more than 120 pounds of marijuana in the car he was driving was upheld Tuesday by Wyoming’s Supreme Court.
Justices rejected the appeal of Bradley Elmore, who said evidence seized from the vehicle he driving when he was arrested should be suppressed because he should not have been stopped for straying over the center line on Interstate 80 near Laramie.
According to the ruling, Elmore was stopped in July 2019 while driving east on the interstate after Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Aaron Kirlin saw the car Elmore was driving cross the center line twice.
After Elmore was stopped, Kirlin used the drug detection dog he was traveling with to search for controlled substances in the car.
The car was searched when the dog “alerted” to the presence of a controlled substance and a subsequent search revealed nine duffel bags in the car containing about 127 pounds of marijuana.
During his trial, Elmore’s attorneys argued evidence seized from the car should not have been presented in court because he was improperly stopped for crossing the interstate’s center line. The district court rejected the argument.
Elmore entered a conditional plea of guilty to a charge of possession of a controlled substance, pending the outcome of his appeal.
In his appeal, Elmore argued the traffic stop was a violation of constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures, saying crossing over the center line should not have led to a reasonable suspicion his vehicle should be stopped. He also argued that in one instance, he was preparing to pass a semi-truck when he crossed the center line.
Elmore also said state laws did not require him to maintain a “perfect vector” in his lane and the his deviations were minor and did not endanger others.
But justices pointed to past rulings in agreeing with the district court that the traffic stop was justified because crossing the center lane is a violation of state law.
“Our … review of the ultimate determination regarding the constitutionality of the initial stop in this case leads us to conclude that Trooper Kirlin’s actions did not violate (the constitution),” said the opinion, written by Chief Justice Michael Davis. “Trooper Kirlin’s testimony, along with … dash camera footage, supports the district court’s legal conclusion that reasonable suspicion supported the initial stop based on its findings of fact.”