A Lowell District Court judge today dismissed charges against Attorney Chris Spring’s client who was charged with possessing marijuana with intent to distribute.
Lowell police officers were patrolling the city when they observed a car driving with a rejected inspection sticker. The officers stopped the car. A young woman was driving the car and Attorney Spring’s client was in the front passenger seat. The officers saw the two occupants leaning toward the center console and moving around the passenger compartment so much that the car was rocking back and forth.
When the officers approached the car, neither the driver nor Attorney Spring’s client was cooperative. The driver was yelling and swearing at the officers. In response, the officers ordered both occupants to get out of the car. While they sat on the curb, the officers searched the vehicle. In the back seat was a backpack containing a full bag of marijuana, a digital scale, and multiple plastic baggies. Digital scales and plastic baggies are used by drug dealers to package their product for resale. The driver had two cell phones that were ringing constantly and $200. The defendant had a folding knife and a baggie of marijuana in his pocket. The police continued to search the car and found a sawed-off shotgun in the trunk. Attorney Spring’s client was not charged with possessing the gun but he was charged with possessing the contents of the backpack. He was held without bail at his arraignment because he had a pending case in superior court.
In order for any occupant of the car to be charged with possessing the marijuana in the backpack, the Commonwealth would need to prove he or she: (1) knew about the marijuana; and (2) intended to exercise control over it. Attorney Spring filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the police report did not establish probable cause that the defendant even knew what was inside of the backpack. There are hundreds of Massachusetts appellate cases that address the evidence necessary to establish a car occupant’s knowledge of contraband inside of the vehicle. The cases are fact specific, but courts consider a number of factors including whether a suspect owns or is otherwise connected to the car, whether a suspect looks in the direction of the contraband, whether a suspect seems unusually nervous, and whether the contraband is within grabbing distance of a suspect. In Attorney Spring’s case, the prosecutor argued the defendant’s proximity to the backpack in conjunction with his suspicious movements within the car established probable cause that the defendant knew about, and intended to control, the marijuana contained therein. The prosecutor suggested his case was made stronger by the defendant’s possession of a baggie of marijuana and a knife.
Attorney Spring argued the Commonwealth had not linked the baggie of marijuana in his client’s pocket to the larger quantity of marijuana in the backpack. Further, there was no evidence establishing a relationship between his client and the car. Ultimately, the judge agreed with Attorney Spring and dismissed the case over the Commonwealth’s objection. Attorney Spring also successfully argued that his client should be immediately released.
Attorney Spring had had success in beating drug cases by filing motions to dismiss or motions to suppress. If you are charged with a drug crime, you should immediately consult with a criminal defense attorney to explore your options.