The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office was forced to dismiss drug dealing charges against Attorney Chris Spring’s client this week after a judge allowed Attorney Spring’s motion to suppress the seized heroin and cocaine.
The defendant was known to the police as a drug dealer. On September 23, 2017, the cops were conducting surveillance in a local city and saw the defendant enter the car of a drug addict. The addict drove to a nearby fast food restaurant and went inside, while the defendant got out of the car and sat on the curb. A detective drove past the defendant and notified other officers that he (the defendant) was holding a bag of heroin. Several cops immediately approached the defendant and ordered him to drop the bag. The defendant dropped the bag of heroin on the ground along with a second bag containing cocaine. He was arrested, handcuffed, and searched. He was wearing a fanny pack that contained a digital scale, which is a tool used by dealers to weigh the drugs. The defendant also had more than $200 hidden in his sock. After the defendant was arrested, the cops went into the restaurant and located the addict who had been driving the defendant in her car. The addict appeared to be under the influence of drugs and told the cops she had used heroin earlier in the day. An officer searched her purse and found a bag of heroin which she said was given to her by the defendant. The Commonwealth charged the defendant with one felony count each of: distribution of heroin; possession of heroin with intent to distribute; and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Attorney Spring filed a motion to suppress the drugs seized from the defendant, arguing the police lacked constitutional authority to stop and search the defendant. The detective who saw the defendant holding the bag of heroin testified at the hearing. Under cross-examination by Attorney Spring, the detective admitted he could not be sure the bag contained narcotics before the defendant was seized by the police. His testimony was inconsistent with the police report, where he wrote he saw heroin in the bag. The judge ruled that because the detective wasn’t sure the defendant was holding drugs before the seizure, it was illegal for officers to approach him and order him to drop the bag. In order to seize the defendant, the police were required to reasonably suspect he was committing a crime. Police officers may not rely on a hunch – even if it turns out to be true – to stop and seize a suspect. Accordingly, the judge allowed Attorney Spring’s motion to suppress the drugs. Without the drugs, the prosecutor could no longer prove the charges and the case was dismissed.
Any time charges result from a police search (with or without a warrant), it is important to closely examine whether the cops had the constitutional authority to conduct the search. When police officers search a suspect and recover contraband, the Commonwealth must prove the search did not violate the state or federal constitutions. If the cops didn’t follow the rules, the result will be suppression of the evidence.