- August 4, 2014
A man stopped by sheriff's deputies for not wearing a seat belt was arrested on charges of cocaine trafficking and marijuana possession with intent to sell, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.
Joseph D. Balcom, 69, was leaving the Sarasota Pavilion and driving west on Stickney Point Road around 7 p.m. July 3 when a deputy noticed he had no seat belt over his shoulder, and stopped the vehicle, according to the sheriff's office.
He was given a verbal warning for not wearing the belt, and then the deputy asked to search his vehicle. Balcom consented, and the deputy reported finding a "large Tupperware" behind the driver's seat that contained 7.3 grams of marijuana in an envelope.
Ballroom told the deputy he had just left Hooters, where he was drinking beer and selling marijuana out of his car. He said he sold two envelopes identical to the one found in the vehicle.
Upon further search of the vehicle, the deputy found 22 envelopes within the car, all containing cocaine, as well as empty envelopes identical to the ones containing narcotics. Some of the envelopes were in a locked black box under the rear seat of the vehicle. The deputy found the key to the box on the suspect's key ring.
The deputy also found $785 in cash in a blue envelope in the center console, and $147 in the suspect's pocket, the report states.
According to the report, the suspect said he didn't know anything about the cocaine or the locked black box under the rear seat.
Balcom was charged with trafficking cocaine, possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of narcotic equipment. According to public records, he was released from police custody July 4, on $17,000 bond.
Since July 2009, police in Florida are empowered to pull over vehicles on a seat belt violation alone, called a primary offense. Previously, they could only write seat belt violation citations as the result of pulling the car over for another offense.