Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

Published on:

behind barsRecently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts criminal law case discussing whether a text message that was sent to the defendant’s phone while the phone was in police custody should be suppressed. Ultimately, the court concluded that the phone was lawfully seized after a search incident to the defendant’s arrest. Further, the court held that the manner in which the officer saw the text message did not constitute a “search.” Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

The Facts of the Case

A police officer observed what he believed to be a drug transaction being conducted in a grocery store parking lot. As the police officer approached the defendant, who was alleged to have been the seller, the defendant ran. Another police officer caught up to the defendant a short time later and arrested him. The officer found cash and a cell phone on the defendant, and a black bag containing crack cocaine nearby on the ground.

The police officer took custody of the defendant’s phone and took it back to the station. A short time later, while the defendant was being processed, the cell phone began to ring. The officer looked at the ringing phone and saw a text message notification on the main screen. The court did not disclose the contents of the message, but it was likely damaging to the defendant as the prosecution planned on entering it into evidence. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the text message, arguing that it was discovered as the result of an illegal search.

Continue reading

Published on:

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug case discussing whether the police possessed probable cause to obtain the warrant they used to search the defendant’s apartment. Finding that the tip from a confidential informant gave police probable cause to believe the defendant was involved in the sale of narcotics, and followed by an “imperfectly” executed controlled-buy, the court reversed a lower court’s ruling granting the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Confidential InformantThe Facts of the Case

Police were given a tip by a confidential informant (CI) that the defendant sold cocaine from his apartment. The CI provided police with a description of the defendant, as well as his name and address. Police verified that a man by the defendant’s name lived at the address provided by the CI, and then arranged for the CI to make a controlled-buy from the defendant.

The CI was seen approaching the defendant’s foyer, and then seen a short time later leaving the defendant’s foyer. At no point was the defendant seen, and the CI was not seen entering the defendant’s home. When the CI returned to police, he provided them with cocaine and told the police it was obtained from the defendant.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug trafficking case discussing whether the evidence seized by the police was done so in violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights. Specifically, the court had to determine if the defendants should have been provided with Miranda warnings prior to being asked questions by police. Ultimately, the court concluded that, although the defendants were not free to leave, they were not “in custody” for the purposes of the Miranda analysis.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

A police officer was walking into a store when he heard one of the defendants on the phone. The officer believed that the defendant was arranging a narcotics transaction, and he began to follow the defendant. The defendant ultimately met up with another man, and the two engaged in a transaction of unknown objects. This confirmed the officer’s suspicions, and he called back-up.

The officers approached the two defendants and separated them immediately. One of the officers claimed to have given one of the defendants some version of the Miranda warnings, but the officer was unable to recall exactly what was stated to the defendant. The other defendant was not read any of his Miranda rights.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug trafficking case requiring the court to determine if a police officer’s traffic stop that ultimately led to the discovery of narcotics was longer than necessary, and thus was conducted in violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights. Ultimately, the court determined that the arresting officer exceeded his authority when he continued to ask questions of the defendants after they provided information that would have been sufficient to allow the officer to verify their identities.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The defendants were an African-American man and woman, both of whom were passengers in a car driven by a white female. As the three were traveling along the highway, a police officer noticed that the vehicle’s rear tail light was out. The officer pulled the vehicle over.

As the officer approached, he began to question the driver about the identity of the passengers. The driver identified the passengers as two friends, “J” and “T.” The officer noticed that the driver’s voice was trembling, and she appeared nervous, and also the two defendants were not wearing seatbelts.

Continue reading

Published on:

Over the years, police have tried a number of different investigative tactics to uncover illegal activities and arrest those they believe to be engaged in such activities. In general, the United States and Massachusetts constitutions outline the protections individuals have from intrusive, unfair, or coercive police conduct, and courts will apply these constitutional principles to enforce the rights of individuals when necessary. More often than not, this results in the exclusion of evidence obtained illegally through a motion to suppress.

Legal News GavelOne way that police try to uncover illegal narcotic activity is through the use of confidential informants. A confidential informant is often a citizen with no law enforcement experience who agrees to cooperate with the police. Often, these individuals have some kind of “inside” knowledge through their relationship with those who are the target of the police investigation.

The use of confidential informants, however, presents major concerns because an informant’s tip can lead to the issuance of a warrant, or it may be the basis for an arrest or search. That being the case, Massachusetts courts only allow police to act on certain kinds of tips from confidential informants. A recent case illustrates how courts analyze cases involving confidential informants.

Continue reading

Published on:

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug possession case requiring the court to determine if the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient to sustain the defendant’s conviction. Ultimately, the court determined that there was sufficient evidence to find that the plaintiff constructively possessed the drugs.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

In January 2015, the defendant’s apartment was searched by police who had a warrant. The police were looking for the defendant’s boyfriend, and when the police located heroin in the defendant’s apartment, they arrested her boyfriend. One of the arresting officers warned the defendant to stay away from the boyfriend.

The next month, police again searched the defendant’s apartment, and again, her boyfriend was present. At the time the police searched the apartment, the defendant was not home. The police asked the defendant’s boyfriend if there were any drugs in the apartment, and he told them that there was some heroin under the dresser in the defendant’s room and that the drugs were his.

Continue reading

Published on:

Legal News GavelIn a recent Massachusetts appellate case, a trial court judge allowed a criminal defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that had been seized by police executing a search warrant after first making two warrantless searches of the defendant’s apartment.

The case arose when police received a report that there was a smell like drugs coming from the defendant’s apartment. Later, they got another complaint from a neighbor describing a skunky and a minty smell and claiming she could see a bright light inside. Two days later, detectives went to the apartment and met with the neighbor. Nobody answered the defendant’s apartment door. The detectives weren’t able to see inside, but they could smell chemicals from beneath a running air conditioner.

A complaining neighbor told the detectives that two people, a boyfriend and girlfriend, lived in the apartment, and they usually left together in the morning. On that morning, the neighbor had spotted the defendant leaving alone. The detectives got the girlfriend’s phone number but weren’t able to get in contact with her. They went into the apartment to look for her. The building’s owner’s son took them through the basement, where the smell got stronger. When nobody responded to the detectives identifying themselves, they went in.

Continue reading

Published on:

Legal News GavelIn a recent Massachusetts case, the court considered whether field sobriety tests were admissible in situations in which the police believe a driver may have been driving under the influence of marijuana.

The case arose in 2013, when the police watched a blue motor vehicle traveling south on Route 146 without its rear lights on. The police followed the car and activated their lights. The officer approached on the passenger side. There were three people inside:  the driver and two passengers. Smoke was in the car, and the officer smelled burnt marijuana when the window was rolled down. The officer also saw cigar tobacco on the floor and a cigar slicer on the key ring of the key that was in the ignition. The officer asked the driver for his license and registration.

The driver gave the officer his license but said he didn’t have his registration. The officer asked him how much pot he had in the car, and the driver answered there were roaches in the ashtray. Two mostly consumed rolled cigarettes were taken out of the ashtray and provided to the officer, who asked when they smoked pot. A passenger replied they’d smoked 20 minutes earlier, but the driver answered it had been three hours earlier.

Continue reading

Published on:

Legal News GavelIn a recent Massachusetts case, the defendant appealed from convictions for receiving stolen property and trafficking in heroin. The case arose when the police received a report that someone had stolen a generator from a construction site. The surveillance video depicted a truck leaving the construction site with the generator. A few days later, the police were told that the replacement generator was also stolen from the site. The video showed that the same truck took the equipment and traveled onto Route 93.

About a week later, a construction company reported to a police department in Dedham that a trailer-mounted generator was stolen from a construction site. The generator had a wireless GPS tracking device that showed it was in Boston. When the police went to where it was located, they saw it was signaling in a parking area and a three-car garage. The officers peered through the fence around the parking area and saw the truck, as well as a generator that had the name of the second construction company on the side. The officers got a search warrant for the property and came back with a Boston police officer.

The Boston police officer also got a warrant to search a truck in Dorchester for construction equipment believed to be stolen. The police officer’s affidavit said he’d first come into the property with police officers under their search warrant for the stolen generator. He got another search warrant to investigate a different theft of a generator from a Boston construction site. On location, he got information from neighbors and also saw a metal stabilizer that would hold up a trailer.

Continue reading

Published on:

Legal News GavelIn a recent Massachusetts appellate case, the court considered whether certain aspects of the Crime Bill applied to drug crimes. The defendant had been charged before the effective date of the law but convicted after it. The case arose when he was observed by cops performing what they thought were drug deals on the street. When they searched him, they found eight bags of cocaine weighing 28.14 grams.

In 2011, he was indicted for violating MGL c. 94C, § 32E(b)(2). This was a second-tier violation involving cocaine trafficking in the amount of 28 grams-100 grams. For a violation, the law required judges to sentence a defendant to at least five years, with at most 20 years imprisonment.

The Crime Bill was enacted in 2012 and changed § 32E by upping the weights that set the first tier to 18 grams-36 grams. Previously, the upper weight for this tier had been 28 grams. Judges were required to sentence defendants convicted of a first-tier offense to a minimum sentence of two years.

Continue reading