New Years Day traffic stop on erratic driver lands NC man behind bars on gun, drug charges

02 January 2024- A Traphill, North Carolina man is facing over a dozen charges in Franklin County today following a traffic stop on Interstate 81. Dustin Scott Cleary is charged with two felony counts of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, two felony counts of firearms not carried with a license, misdemeanor DUI, three misdemeanor drug possession charges, misdemeanor marijuana possession, five misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession charges, misdemeanor possession of offensive weaponry, and three traffic violations. Cleary is behind bars on $75,000 bail.

Around 9:45am on January 1st, PSP Troopers were notified of an erratic driver on I-81NB. That car, a silver SUV with North Carolina plates, was reportedly driving in the middle of the lanes as well as switching lanes without signaling. While conducting a patrol, officers were alerted by passing motorists as well to the questionable car, which led to a traffic stop by PSP Troopers.

During the stop, Troopers say they found Dustin Cleary to have visibly bloodshot eyes and he was removed from the vehicle for DUI testing. It was at this time police say they found a blue straw in his front pocket with suspected drug residue as well as brass knuckles and knives on him. Cleary allegedly later explained that the powder on the straw was either meth and/or subutex.

A search of the vehicle allegedly yielded 9 suboxone pills, two partial suboxone pills, wrapped blue paper containing white powder, one suspected gabapentin pill, three orange pill containers, and the aforementioned straw. Police were eventually let into a lock box that supposedly belonged to Cleary’s father, but was later determined to belong to Cleary himself.

A search of that lockbox seems to show why Cleary didn’t want it to be examined by police. Troopers say that inside of the box they found a Bersa .380 handgun, a Bryco Arms .380 handgun, a bag of suspected marijuana, a bag of suspected meth, a green digital scale, multiple boxes of ammo, multiple used syringes, and documents like a birth certificate, registration, and vehicle title all belonging to Dustin Cleary.

Due to the presence of documents with Cleary’s name on them and not his father’s name, police determined the contents to belong to the former. A review of Cleary’s record shows that he was convicted in March of 2020 for felony possession of narcotics in Wilkes County, NC. That would preclude him from possessing a firearm. Additionally, Cleary did not possess a legal concealed carry permit.

Dustin Cleary is behind bars on $75,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is set for January 9th.

Sources: Docket Number: MJ-39302-CR-0000003-2024, Incident No.: PA 2024-1811