Traffic stop leads to seizure of illegal fireworks, driver arrested for impairment

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 7/5/23

MARIES COUNTY — Maries County Chief Deputy Scott John said the courthouse is currently storing roughly 12,000 pounds of fireworks confiscated from a Friday traffic stop and consequent arrest.

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Traffic stop leads to seizure of illegal fireworks, driver arrested for impairment


MARIES COUNTY — Maries County Chief Deputy Scott John said the courthouse is currently storing roughly 12,000 pounds of fireworks confiscated from a Friday traffic stop and consequent arrest.

The June 30 stop near the junction of Route A and Highway 63 resulted in the arrest of a Mississippi man on allegations of driving under a suspended license, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, and transporting hazmat material across state lines without the proper permits.

Maries County Deputy Tiffany Johnson, the department’s K9 handler, was traveling on Highway 63 when she observed a Penske rental truck travel off the right side of the roadway and nearly overturn before correcting its trajectory.

John said Johnson initiated the traffic stop and had immediate concerns.

“The driver gave an ID only and told the deputy he was suspended out of Mississippi,” John said. “When we ran him through the system, he didn’t come back as suspended, but reinstated, he just had to take his test. There was also a strong odor of marijuana in the car.”

The driver, who works for Central Missouri Fireworks located in Moberly, informed the deputy that he had been smoking marijuana in the vehicle. He also stated that he was transporting fireworks for his mother’s company to buyers in Mississippi.

“The deputy relayed the information over the radio,” John said. “I wasn’t too far away so myself and Deputy Tanner Hinson showed up on the scene.”

The driver and a female passenger were both in the vehicle. John asked what they were carrying and if they had insurance for the vehicle.

“The first thing I pulled out was a carbon copy weigh ticket from MFA in Moberly,” John said. “The vehicle weighed over 30,000 pounds. I immediately knew they were overweight, the driver didn’t have a driver’s license and they had no insurance because the Penske truck, on the rental agreement, said they were not hauling hazardous materials, which would probably nullify their insurance.”

The female passenger had a Class E driver’s license, which would have been sufficient for the vehicle had it not been overweight by several thousand pounds.

“At that point, I knew we were dealing with a lot of vehicle enforcement issues and contacted Troop I,” John said.

John said the driver and female passenger were both cooperative. The driver said his stepdad owned a fireworks company in Moberly for the last 30 years but died in April. His mother was going to make one last run of it before they returned to Mississippi.

“He said they ship fireworks from Missouri to Mississippi every year,” John said. “I knew the State Fire Marshal inspects the fireworks stands and contacted them about the company’s license. The State Fire Marshal’s Office couldn’t locate a permit for the company to sell fireworks in Missouri.”

The driver contacted his mother, who spoke to John directly.

“She called me back and I said we couldn’t find a permit for the company and they had no legal grounds to transport or sell fireworks of that quantity in Missouri,” John said.

Following Troop I’s vehicle inspection, the vehicle was cited for eight violations in their report and gave it to Johnson. It was the recommendation by the County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Skouby to seize the vehicle.

“Under the circumstances, we couldn’t allow the vehicle to continue down the roadway in the condition it was in,” John said. “The driver was under arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana and two or three other violations — all misdemeanors.”

The driver was taken to jail overnight while the prosecutor did homework on the charges and was released the following day with a summons with violations.

“We seized the truck with the fireworks and emptied it with the help of the inmates at the courthouse,” John said. “They were happy to help for a pizza and soda dinner. They earned it. It took a couple of hours.”

The sheriff’s department contacted Penske Truck Rental. Within three hours a Peterbilt truck arrived to tow the truck back to their headquarters

“We are in a quandary of what to do with (the fireworks),” John said. “There were packing slips inside the vehicle for three different fireworks stands in Mississippi. There are no grounds to allow it to continue being transported across Missouri, they were purchased illegally, so there are no grounds to continue to allow them to be shipped. The buyers will have to go through the company in Moberly to get their money back if they have paid upfront.”

John said the packing slips showed the cost of the total shipment around $30,000.

“Retail probably doubles that. My guess is the companies will say they don’t want them now that the holiday is over,” John said. “We are not giving it back to the company who violated the law unless the judge says so. We need to find out how long we will have to hold it, what the end results will be, and then move it to another location.”

Johnson arrested the driver under 12 violations: driving while intoxicated - drugs, driving while suspended, failing to maintain the right half of roadway, and failing to maintain financial responsibility (no insurance) in addition to the eight vehicle violations.

John said the traffic stop was made while utilizing Missouri Highway Safety grant funds during the June Speed Enforcement Campaign.

“Every year Highway Safety has a grant application period to pay people overtime, to work while off duty,” John said. “It can put between 20 to 40 hours of extra patrol on the road.”

Last year, the Maries County Sheriff’s Department received between $6,000 and $7,000 from the Highway Safety grant funds that they chose to use from June 7 through July 7 and help cover the week of the Belle Fair.

“The grant helped pay the deputy for the traffic stop that led to the seizure of fireworks being transported unlawfully,” John said.