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Driver stopped for texting gets more than bargained for

A Newport, Minn., man stopped by police for texting while driving also was charged with drug possession, driving after suspension and having an uninsured vehicle.

A Newport, Minn., man stopped by police for texting while driving also was charged with drug possession, driving after suspension and having an uninsured vehicle.

According to a Washington County District Court complaint, Aaron T. Zuniga, 23, was stopped on Aug. 1, 2009, in the 7100 block of East Point Douglas Road after an officer saw him driving slowly with his head down looking at his cell phone and wearing no seatbelt. Zuniga said he knew it was illegal not to wear a seatbelt and to text while driving, but he said he needed to contact someone urgently. He also admitted that the car was uninsured.

The complaint said the officer spotted a green leafy substance near the driver's right foot, which appeared to be marijuana stems and seeds. The officer also checked Zuniga's driver's license and found it had been suspended due to an unpaid fine. The officer began preparing the car to be impounded, and when he opened the glove box a Ziploc baggy containing orange hexagon-shaped pills fell out. A test showed the pills contained buprenorphine, a controlled substance. The officer also found Zig-Zag rolling papers and a digital scale.

Zuniga was charged with fifth-degree drug possession, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $10,000 in fines; possession of drug paraphernalia, which has a maximum penalty of $300 in fines; and possession of more than 1.4 grams of marijuana in a motor vehicle, driving after suspension, uninsured vehicle owner violation and using a wireless communications device, all of which carry maximum penalties of 90 days in prison and $1,000 in fines.

Zuniga's initial court appearance was scheduled for Wednesday.

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The South Washington County Bulletin of Cottage Grove, Minn., and the News Tribune are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

Related Topics: CRIME
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