A July 5 traffic stop initiated in order to investigate a cracked windshield ended in the arrest of a Tennessee man after cash and methamphetamine were discovered concealed in a floorboard safe.
A Gwinnett County Police officer was traveling northbound on I-85 near Hamilton Mill Road when he noticed a white Cadillac Deville with a cracked windshield. After stopping the vehicle, the officer asked the driver to exit the vehicle. While completing a warning citation, the officer asked the driver about her travels. The woman said she had been to Atlanta to visit a friend of one of her passengers. However, when the officer questioned the woman’s passengers, both gave different reasons for the trip.
While interviewing the vehicle occupants, the officer noticed the male passenger, later identified as Matthew Zollinger, 20, of 140 Hillcrest Road in Bluff City, Tenn., was visibly shaking and appeared to be extremely nervous.
The officer asked the driver if there was anything illegal inside the vehicle. The woman reportedly replied, “Not that I’m aware of.” At that point, the officer asked for consent to search the vehicle. The woman agreed and said, “as long as you do not tear anything up.”
During the search of the vehicle, the officer found a small safe in the rear passenger floorboard. The safe was locked, but the officer located the key in the rear driver’s side door where Zollinger had been sitting. Inside the safe, the officer found over $3,100 in cash, three bottles of prescription pills filled in Zollinger’s name and a small amount of suspected methamphetamine.
When the officer asked Zollinger about the safe, Zollinger said the safe belonged to the driver’s husband and contained paperwork. The driver said the safe belonged to her husband and must have been left inside the vehicle.
The officer contacted the driver’s husband by phone and asked about the contents of the safe. The driver’s husband said he kept paperwork, checks and occasionally a firearm inside the safe. The husband made no mention of any money.
After testing the suspected methamphetamine with a field narcotics identification kit and obtaining a positive result, the officer placed Zollinger under arrest. The driver and another passenger were released. Before leaving the scene, the officer received a phone call from the driver’s husband. The man said the money in the safe was his and he could prove it. The officer asked the husband how much money was in the safe, but the husband said he did not know. The officer explained that since the currency was located in close proximity to illegal narcotics, it was being seized. The husband said he understood and would contact his attorney.
Zollinger was taken to the Gwinnett County Detention Center without incident. The pills and cash were placed into evidence and the suspected methamphetamine sent to the GBI lab for further testing.
Zollinger was released the following day on a $5,700 bond.