Attorney Chris Spring successfully argued that the drugs seized from his client’s Billerica home by police officers who were executing a search warrant should be suppressed because the warrant application did not establish probable cause that contraband would be found in the defendant’s bedroom.
The defendant was known to the police to be a drug dealer. Last summer, Tewksbury and Billerica police officers were conducting surveillance of a man who drove to the defendant’s house. They watched the man go inside for about 20 minutes and saw the defendant’s bedroom light turn on and off twice. As the man drove away after his visit with the defendant, the cops stopped his car for committing traffic violations. When officers approached the car, they saw the man attempting to dump out a baggie of cocaine. The police removed him from his car and he told them the defendant had just given him two bags of Fentanyl as they stood on the defendant’s porch. The police immediately applied for a warrant to search the defendant’s home. A Billerica detective wrote in the warrant application that confidential informants told him the defendant had been selling drugs in the previous months. A clerk magistrate issued the warrant and the cops searched the defendant’s home the same evening, finding Fentanyl and packaging materials that are typically used by drug dealers. The defendant was charged with possession of Fentanyl with intent to distribute.
Attorney Spring filed a motion to suppress the drugs, arguing the magistrate incorrectly concluded there was probable cause to believe drugs would be found in the defendant’s bedroom. There was no question there was probable cause to believe the defendant was a drug dealer based on the information provided by the man who had visited his house and the confidential informants. However, the warrant application needed to establish probable cause to believe contraband would be located in the area to be searched (the defendant’s bedroom). The police may not search a suspect’s home just because there is probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a crime – there must be information tying the criminal activity to the place to be searched. In this case, the Commonwealth failed to establish a nexus between the defendant’s drug dealing activities and his bedroom. The man who had visited his home said the defendant handed him the drugs on the porch, not inside the house. The confidential informants who provided information to the Billerica detective never alleged the defendant was dealing drugs out of his bedroom and officers never connected his home to his drug dealing business.
Following a hearing in Lowell District Court, a judge agreed with Attorney Spring’s argument and ordered suppression of the drugs and packaging materials recovered from the defendant’s bedroom. As a result, the Commonwealth will have no evidence to support the charge and the case will need to be dismissed.
Anybody who is charged with a drug crime should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore potential defenses. Even in seemingly strong cases, there are often ways to attack the evidence that will cause the prosecution’s case to fall apart.