By RYAN DUNN
More than a thousand oxycodone pills are inadmissible as evidence following a State Highway Patrol sergeant’s improper search, a Hancock County judge has ruled.
In a decision issued Monday, Judge Reginald Routson cast doubt on whether Sgt. Kurt Beidelschies smelled marijuana during an Interstate 75 traffic stop last fall.
Marijuana was not found after a search of the vehicle and driver, he wrote.
Sgts. Beidelschies and Michael Walter stopped driver Trenton Shuttlesworth on Nov. 18 for driving too closely to another vehicle near Hancock County 99, according to their testimony.
Cruiser footage shows a few brief encounter between Beidelschies and Shuttlesworth before the sergeant searched him, Routson wrote.
Beidelschies testified he did so after smelling marijuana while standing for a minute outside Shuttlesworth’s window, and again from the opposing passenger side as Shuttlesworth exited his vehicle, Routson wrote.
Beidelschies further testified he patted Shuttlesworth’s jacket after telling him about his suspicion and receiving no response, according to Routson.
There he found the bag of pills, Routson wrote. The State Highway Patrol reported the seizure as 1,066 oxycodone pills worth roughly $32,000.
A Hancock County grand jury indicted Shuttlesworth, 45, of Nashville, on a first-degree felony charge of aggravated drug possession.
Walter testified Shuttlesworth admitted the pills were placed near raw marijuana in Toledo, Routson wrote.
Routson questioned Beidelschies’ probable cause that he could smell the trace of marijuana from several feet away on a cold, windy day.
“The implausibility of this olfactory phenomenon also taints the balance of his testimony,” Routson wrote.
It’s unlikely Beidelschies could do so during the six-second interaction between meeting and search, Routson wrote.
The judge found it “difficult to fathom” the drug’s smell could be easily detected from the plastic bag and Shuttlesworth’s clothes.
He further ruled the sergeants should have obtained a warrant before searching Shuttlesworth. They lacked evidence suggesting Shuttlesworth would destroy evidence before a search warrant could be granted, according to Routson.
“The vehicle was halted on a major thoroughfare during the middle of a weekday within a short distance of local courts, making it simpler for the officers to seek a search warrant,” he wrote.