Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

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As a general matter, police officers must be justified in their approach and questioning of a person. This includes both pedestrian stops as well as motor vehicle stops. Typically, an officer must be able to present articulable facts supporting the officer’s reasonable suspicion that the person who was stopped had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime.

Massachusetts courts have held, however, that when an officer is not investigating a crime but instead checking in on the wellbeing of a person (or the occupants of a vehicle) the questioning does not need to be supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion. This is known as the community-caretaking exception. A few years ago, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug possession case discussing the community-caretaking exception. The case also provides an in-depth discussion of Massachusetts law as it pertains to drug-sniffing dogs.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant ran out of gas while driving on Route 140. A state trooper saw the defendant’s vehicle move into the breakdown lane with the hazard lights flashing so the trooper pulled behind it, engaging the cruiser’s blue emergency lights. The defendant exited his vehicle, explained he was out of gas, and asked what he should do. The defendant then called and asked a friend to bring him some gas.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug possession case discussing whether evidence seized as a result of the police officers’ decision to “freeze” a home while the officers obtained a search warrant. The court ultimately determined that the officers were unable to identify any “specific information supporting an objectively reasonable belief that evidence will indeed be removed or destroyed.” Thus, the court held that the defendant’s motion to suppress should be granted.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were investigating a home after they received a tip that the house was involved in a prostitution ring. An undercover officer entered the home and pretended to be a customer. After being offered sex for money, the officers called in backup to arrest several people inside the house.

Evidently, the arresting officers noticed that other people were in the home, and decided to “freeze” the home, meaning to conduct a search to remove all occupants. In an upstairs bedroom, police found the defendant who was in possession of crack cocaine. The defendant was arrested and charged with possession of a class B substance.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug case discussing whether the search warrant obtained by police was valid. The case involved the use of a confidential informant who did not know the defendant and did not ever mention to officers that the defendant was involved in the sale of narcotics. However, the court upheld the search that was conducted after officers obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s apartment through the officers’ independent investigation.

The Facts of the Case

Police received numerous tips that a man was selling narcotics out of a gold sedan. Several of the tips indicated that the sedan had a strap holding the vehicle’s truck in place. One of the tips came from a confidential informant who told officers that he had purchased narcotics from a man in a gold vehicle who was accompanied by a woman. Police went to the location provided by the tipsters and witnessed the subject of their investigation leave a residence and enter a gold sedan with a strap holding the trunk in place. A woman accompanied the subject.

Police ran the vehicle’s information, and it came back as registered to the defendant’s mother. Police also discovered that there had been a domestic disturbance call made about ten months prior by the defendant against the subject. Police began to believe that the defendant was the woman seen with the subject although they had no proof of that belief. Police officers conducted an investigation and obtained a phone number they believed to be the defendants. When police called as asked for the defendant by name, she replied “speaking.”

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Recently, 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.

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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.

The 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.

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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.

The 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.

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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.

The 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.

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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.One 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.

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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.

The 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.

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In 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.

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