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Mobtown Beat

Court Condones 2009 Car Search That Turned Up Lots of Cocaine

Lenny Ortiz’s good fortune in Maryland’s federal court went south on Dec. 20, when he pleaded guilty to possessing with intent to distribute cocaine in 2009, after he’d been pulled over for speeding on I-95 near White Marsh and a search of his vehicle turned up six kilograms in a hidden compartment.

Ortiz had previously won a court argument contesting that the cops had unconstitutionally searched the vehicle, because—even though they suspected Ortiz was transporting drugs based on a tip, and even though he displayed several tell-tale signs of drug-carrying culpability, and even though Ortiz had given them consent to do the search—they’d pried up the backseat to look for a concealed vehicle-identification number. There, they found the coke-containing compartment, but U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Motz ruled that Ortiz “had no reason to anticipate” such an invasive search as a result of his consent, and so said the cops had gone too far and the six kilos of evidence would have to be chucked out.

On appeal, though, in an opinion written by Fourth Circuit Appellate Court Judge Paul Niemeyer, Motz’s reasoning was faulted, saying the cops had probable cause to believe there were drugs in the vehicle and that their search was conducted within the scope of Ortiz’s consent.

Ortiz’s sentencing is scheduled for March 1.

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