Braintree, Massachusetts firefighters responded to an alarm at an apartment complex two days ago sometime around 2:30 in the afternoon. After finding and eliminating the material that triggered the alarm they entered an adjacent apartment to make sure that the occupants were okay. While going through the home the firemen noticed a large quantity of marijuana in a bedroom closet. They observed very little furniture in the apartment and notified the police. Officers responded to the home and applied for a search warrant. Once inside the home they found one hundred sixteen pounds of packaged marijuana and some drug distribution paraphernalia. The property was secured. Just prior to the search Mary Mei Chan and Dang Huynh arrived at the home. Both were detained and ultimately arrested. They, along with the lessee of the apartment have been charged with trafficking marijuana and conspiracy to violate the Massachusetts drug laws. The case is pending in the Quincy District Court but will likely be prosecuted in the Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham.
Cases like this one present an interesting challenge for criminal defense lawyers. Three people have been charged with trafficking, none of whom were present when the firefighters responded to the alarm. The two people who did show up at the home were not identified as tenants of the apartment. How then is the prosecutor going to prove that either of these individuals intended to traffic this marijuana? I am not sure they can. Drug trafficking in Massachusetts requires the prosecution to proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the person 1) possessed the controlled substance, 2) that he did so with the intent to distribute that drug and 3) that the quantity exceeds the trafficking threshold, in this case fifty pounds. The only element that can easily be proven is the third element, the quantity of the substance. But establishing the elements of possession and intent to distribute for Chan and Huynh is not going to be easy. If both of them were smart enough to keep quiet and not talk to the police then proving the case against them will be difficult.
The same problem might apply to the lessee of the home. How can the district attorney prove that she had any involvement in drug trafficking activities. How long had she been the tenant? Did she actually live there at one time? Was she seen going in and out of the apartment building? Did she sublease this to someone else? Does she have a history of dealing controlled substances, particularly marijuana? I can certainly see where motions to dismiss might be viable in this case. Again, much of this depends on what if anything the defendants said to the police. Hopefully, for their sakes they said nothing.