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Stolen tire report leads to record-breaking drug seizure

Police in Florida say that a report about a stolen tire led to the largest seizure of methamphetamine the Fort Myers Police Department has ever made. About 360 grams of the drug are said to have been recovered form a Toyota sedan on Winkler Avenue that officers had approached in connection with the theft of a tire from a parked car at a nearby shopping center. The car's two male occupants aged 20 and 24 were taken into custody along with a girl. The men are facing a raft of drugs, weapons and theft charges and are scheduled to appear in a Lee County courtroom on Oct. 16. The girl was released to the custody of her grandmother.

The series of events began when a woman returned to her parked Toyota sedan at the Edison Park Shopping Center to find one of her vehicle's wheels missing. Her children told her that a similar car had pulled up and two men emerged with tools. When the second car departed a few minutes later, the children noticed that one of the Toyota's wheels was missing. Police say that they found the second car not far away parked next to a jack with a missing hubcap.

A Fort Meyers Police Department representative said that the methamphetamine recovered during the subsequent vehicle search had a street value of approximately $14,000 and was the largest haul of the drug in the department's history. The search also allegedly yielded baggies containing 47 grams of marijuana, two boxes of ammunition and a number of items of drug paraphernalia including digital scales.

Police officers are generally required to obtain warrants signed by a judge before conducting searches, but warrantless vehicle searches are permitted in certain situations. However, officers who search cars without search warrants must be able to show that they either had probable cause to believe that evidence of criminal activity was contained in the vehicle concerned or they saw items that would justify a search in plain sight. When police are unable to credibly establish either of these circumstances, experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to have searches ruled unconstitutional and the drug charges dismissed.

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