Meridian man challenges search of his car for drugs

A man who got out of his car and locked the doors after a Christmas morning traffic stop claims he should not be held criminally liable for a pound of marijuana later found in the vehicle.

Shaun W. McNabb, 34, contends Boise police lacked probable cause to search his black 2005 Cadillac CTS after officers pulled him over for failing to signal a lane change for five seconds and for pulling across two traffic lanes after completing a turn on the Boise Bench at 1:26 a.m..

Before Officer Tad Miller could get out of his car, McNabb exited the Cadillac and locked the door. He refused multiple orders by Miller to return to his car and was arrested for driving while suspended and resisting or obstructing officers.

A drug dog, Geno, was brought to the scene and indicated the presence of drugs inside the car. Two plastic bags found inside a backpack stored in the trunk contained 1.2 pounds of marijuana, police said. A set of scales was also found in the car.

Defense attorney J.D. Merris said the crimes for which McNabb was originally charged did not lead officers to “believe the vehicle would contain relevant evidence,” according to a motion filed in federal court in Boise.

“The officers simply were on a fishing expedition following the arrest,” Merris wrote.

Officers needed a warrant to perform the search, he said.

Federal prosecutors deny the accusation and say the search of the car, without a warrant, was constitutionally permissible. They say the search “fell within a well-established exception to the warrant requirement” because officers had a probable cause belief that the car contained contraband.

McNabb’s behavior in exiting his car and locking the doors was suspicious on its own, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws wrote in response. And a Ford Explorer that closely followed McNabb and appeared to officers to divert attention away from the Cadillac also seemed suspicious. The driver of that vehicle, Jesse Starkey, pulled in and parked near the Cadillac after McNabb turned into a closed gas station.

“Their probable cause was strengthened when — upon his arrest — defendant McNabb yelled to the driver of the Explorer, ‘Hey, Jesse, have my bond posted and tell my brother to come get my car,’” Haws wrote.

It was clear to police, Haws wrote, that McNabb wanted to keep officers from searching the car, because it contained contraband.

McNabb was scheduled to go on trial Tuesday , but it was postponed because of his motion to suppress evidence from the search. U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge ordered a hearing Thursday to decide whether he will allow the evidence to be introduced. A new trial date has not been set.

He is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison on the drug charge, a mandatory five years minimum on the first weapons charge and up to 10 years on the second one.

McNabb, also listed in court and jail records as “Shawn W. McNabb, was convicted of battery, burglary, robbery and attempt to elude police in Ada County cases between 2000 and 2014.