Montana Supreme Court Unanimously Overturns a Pot Conviction, Saying Cops Stopped the Defendant for No Good Reason

By Jacob Sullum, Reason

Cops thought Hoang Vinh Pham, who received a 15-year prison sentence, was suspicious because he stared at a police van full of marijuana.

During a 2017 trip to Montana, Hoang Vinh Pham was heating up a bowl of noodles at a Conoco station on Interstate 94 when he looked out the window and saw something unusual: a police van stuffed with half a ton of marijuana. Around the same time, Richard Smith, a Montana Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI) agent who was helping two state troopers transport the marijuana to evidence storage in Billings, entered the gas station to use the restroom and buy some water. Smith thought Pham looked at the van for a suspiciously long period of time, which made Smith wonder if Pham might be involved in criminal activity.

That hunch eventually led to a search that discovered 19 pounds of marijuana in the trunk of Pham’s car, an arrest for possession with intent to distribute, and a 15-year prison sentence. But according to the Montana Supreme Court, which unanimously overturned Pham’s 2019 conviction last week, Smith’s hunch was not enough to justify detaining and grilling Pham, which required “particularized suspicion” based on “objective data and articulable facts from which [an officer] can make certain reasonable inferences.”


2 replies »

  1. Good, but I hope those pigs die in a car crash with each other (so no human beings are harmed) and burn in Hell. ACAB, and bootlickers are worse.

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