Hendrix Caje Johnston was driving through Ranchos de Taos on Monday (July 3) when members of New Mexico State Police pulled him over for allegedly speeding and crossing traffic lines. He was initially only charged with DWI, but after a search warrant approved for the driver’s vehicle led to the alleged discovery of narcotics, multiple felony charges were added to Johnston’s rap sheet.
The suspect, whom police have identified as a Taos County resident, was stopped by a state police officer around 4 p.m. while traveling along State Road 68. According to a state police press release, Johnston, 25, “did not pull over immediately” and traveled a short distance before stopping at the side of the road. The release, however, did not specify whether Johnston was confused as to whether his was the vehicle the officer intended to pull over or whether he was in an unsafe area to comply when given the command.
When the officer approached the vehicle, he stated that he could smell a “strong odor” of marijuana that seemed to be coming from within the suspect’s vehicle. Johnston’s eyes were allegedly “red” and he appeared “sluggish,” according to the arresting officer. The suspect admitted to having consumed marijuana, but said that he did so only the day before. He also allegedly admitted to having marijuana inside the vehicle.
He then agreed to take a sobriety test, leading the officer to determine that “Mr. Johnston appeared to be impaired and unable to safely operate the vehicle.” He was immedietely arrested for DWI.
Upon further inspection, the officer said they could see drug paraphernalia in the console of the suspect’s vehicle, which was then towed to the New Mexico State Police office in Taos. A request for a search warrant was approved, leading officers to allegedly discover “containers and bags consistent with the trafficking of narcotics, as well as scales, devices commonly used for the production of narcotics, and other drug paraphernalia.” Police also claimed to have located heroin and methamphetamine, leading to additional drug possession charges – both felonies.
Public Information Officer Elizabeth Armijo stated that officers had performed initial field tests on the suspected narcotics with drug testing kits, “thus giving [probable] cause for those charges,” she said. The drugs, however, have not been submitted to the State Crime Lab for “further, specific testing,” she said.
While the initial tests may have provided probable cause to levy the charges, a failure to send drugs to the lab in a “timely manner” may lead to charges being dismissed. Such was the result in one of Johnston prior cases from 2016. Just this year, the fourth-degree felony drug possession charge stemming from the case was dropped “on the grounds that the drugs in this matter were not sent to the State Crime Lab in a timely fashion,” according to court records. The decision on the matter came less than one month ago: June 14. Prior to the charge, Johnston’s record included only relatively minor traffic violations, according to New Mexico court records.