A woman has been charged with illegal possession of a prescription drug, and it all started with pistachio nuts. Police made the drug possession charge after searching the woman’s car because an officer mistook a pile of crushed pistachio shells for marijuana. The search didn’t uncover any marijuana, but police did find the woman in possession of a narcotic painkiller.
According to the criminal complaint, the 59-year-old woman was stopped for speeding on Jan. 5 by Spring Grove police. An officer mistook a pile of pistachio nut shells in the car for marijuana, and then initiated a search. A bottle of the prescription drug tramadol was found in the woman’s coat pocket. Although she does have a prescription for the painkiller, the bottle found was prescribed to someone else.
The woman said that the tramadol belonged to a relative who lost the bottle a year earlier. The relative later died, and the woman states that she forgot that she had put the pills in her coat pocket for safekeeping, until this winter when she needed to use her coat again. The woman’s attorney says that he will fight the drug charges, with the basis of the defense being that the police did not have a justifiable reason to perform the search. He said he plans to introduce a bag of pistachios as evidence.
Narcotic prescription medications are commonly prescribed by doctors, so it may seem strange that someone could be charged with a felony for being in possession of a bottle of prescription pills or even just a few individual pills. A police case against someone who has been charged with drug possession on the basis of having prescription drugs must be sound in order for the prosecution to win. A defense against the charges could be based on probable cause, which means that if police did not have a good reason to initiate the search that uncovered the pills, the charges could be dismissed.