Written by attorney James Morris Balagia

Drug Case Not a Slam Dunk

This is not a slam dunk case if the facts are accurately reported This was not a case where the law enforcement agents just happened to stumble onto a crime in progress. From my past experience in working drug cases when I was a police officer someone informed on this operation and provided inside information about the delivery time and location. This is not a slam dunk case if the facts are accurately reported in the story below. The informant must have a track record of credibility and knowledge in this type of criminal activity, the officers must have followed regulations during their investigation and the traffic stop must be supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Warrantless stops must be based on law otherwise the evidence can be suppressed and the State's case might go up in smoke! Hays County seizes one of its largest pot busts - By Claudia Grisales The Hays County Narcotics Task Force recovered 850 pounds of marijuana, one of its largest seizures ever, following an airport interdiction operation Wednesday evening out of the San Marcos airport, according to law enforcement officials. The recovery occurred after the task force, which includes members from the Hays County sheriff's office and the San Marcos Police Department, began tracking a plane flown into the San Marcos airport, said sheriff's office spokesman Leroy Opiela. They saw bags being loaded from the plane into a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban, Opiela said. Joined by deputies from the sheriff's office, a traffic stop was made on the vehicle sometime close to 11 p.m. Wednesday about five miles away on northbound Interstate 35 at the intersection of River Ridge Parkway, Opiela said. "This is one of the bigger seizures ever made in Hays County," Opiela said. An investigation of the scene uncovered 16 large duffle bags filled with marijuana in the rear of the vehicle, officials said. A juvenile and two adult men were taken into custody, including the pilot of the plane, who is an air traffic controller from the New Braunfels airport, Opiela said. The pilot, Joe Frank Corder, Jr., 64, of Wimberley, faces delivery of marijuana charges, a first-degree felony, Opiela said. Another man, Melvin Alexander Duran, 33, of Austin, who was driving the vehicle, faces a possession of marijuana charge, a second-degree felony, Opiela said. The juvenile, whose name or age has not been released, was placed with juvenile detention, Opiela said. Both adult men are in custody, and Corder is being held with bail set at $80,000, while Duran is being held on bail of $60,000, Opiela said. Another major bust about two to three years ago netted 1,000 pounds of drugs, Opiela said. But since Opiela began working with the Hays County sheriff's office 12 years ago, this would at least be the second-largest seizure during that time, he said.

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