Trafficking in heroin in Massachusetts is prohibited by Section 32E of the Controlled Substances Act. Often, attorneys must defend a drug crime like this one by using a motion to suppress evidence. In Commonwealth v. Alix, the defendant appealed from a conviction for possession with intent to distribute heroin and violating drug laws within 300 feet of a park or school. Before trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence that was seized at his home. He argued that the affidavit supporting the search warrant didn’t establish a connection between the alleged crime and his home. The motion was denied.
The defendant appealed. The affidavit had claimed that a confidential informant had told police that a Hispanic man (who had the same first name as the defendant and drove a gray Saab) was selling heroin. Detectives became aware due to another investigation that the defendant had the name mentioned by the informant and drove a Saab.
The informant initiated a transaction that the police controlled. He called the defendant and asked to buy heroin at a specific location. The detectives searched the informant and his vehicle for controlled substances and gave the informant money to conduct the transaction. They also watched the defendant’s home and saw him leave his home and go into a gray Saab. The detectives watched continuously as the informant went into the Saab to meet the defendant and went to a location to meet the detective, where the informant handed the detective heroin. The informant returned home.
The informant also participated in a second controlled transaction by calling the defendant and asking to buy heroin. The detectives again controlled the transaction and again watched the defendant’s home. The informant again went into the defendant’s Saab for a minute and then handed the detective heroin that was ostensibly purchased from the defendant.
The affidavit showed that the defendant’s delivery of drugs started in his home. The appellate court found that there was a sufficient connection established between the home and the drug sales.
On appeal, the defendant also argued that any statements he made to the police as they executed the warrant were involuntary and that they should have been suppressed at trial. When they served a search warrant on his home, the officers found the defendant in the shower. They gave him a towel that he wrapped around himself and explained that they had a search warrant. The defendant looked at the warrant and was read his Miranda rights. The officers told him that if he told them where the drugs were, they wouldn’t have to ransack the place. In response, he admitted there were 10 grams inside the bedroom safe. Six bags of heroin were found.
On appeal, the defendant argued that he was only wearing a towel and that the officer had offered not to disrupt the apartment if he would cooperate, and therefore neither his waiver of his Miranda rights nor the statements he made were voluntary. The appellate court noted that the trial judge had held a hearing on this issue and found the officers’ testimony credible. The court found the statements were given freely, noting that the defendant had the presence of mind to ask to see the search warrant.
The defendant also argued that the judge had not given an adequate “humane practice instruction” related to the Commonwealth’s burden to show his statements were voluntary beyond a reasonable doubt. Under this doctrine, if it is in question whether the defendant’s statements are voluntary, the judge is supposed to submit the issue to the jury.
In this case, the judge told the jury that before they could consider the defendant’s statements, the jurors had to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that they were made and that they were the product of the defendant’s free will. The judge told the jury the statement couldn’t be considered if the jury wasn’t satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt. The appellate court ruled that the judge had correctly denied the defendant’s motions to suppress.
If you are charged in Massachusetts with drug possession or another drug crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.
More Blog Posts:
Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015
Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014