Do you ever wonder why “routine” motor vehicle stops often seem to result in major drug busts? How is it that the cops just happened to pull someone over and suddenly find large quantities of drugs in the car, on the driver and in the possession of the passenger? Is it because of good police work? Is it luck? Or is it more likely a violation of your constitutional rights that if properly attacked can result in suppression of the drugs and a dismissal of your case? This post examines a western Massachusetts motor vehicle stop that resulted in three people being charged with felony possession with intent to distribute drugs and conspiracy.
Can the Police in Massachusetts Ask Me and My Passengers to Get Out of The Car?
Before I answer this question lets take a look at the facts reported on a recent Massachusetts case. An officer stopped a car for a having a loud muffler and an obscure license plate. In the car were a driver and two passengers. The officer questioned the three and became concerned when their answers were evasive. He then separated the three. After doing so he learned that the group was bringing drugs from Massachusetts to their home state, Vermont. A subsequent search of the group revealed one hundred bags of heroin on Michael Farnsworth, another one hundred bags on Charles Wolfenbarger and yet another one hundred bags in the trunk. Did the officer have the right to do what he did? According to several Massachusetts cases the answer is no. If the driver produced a valid license and registration then the most the officer can do is give him a citation. Routine traffic stops do not permit the police to detain the driver and occupants. There is also no basis for questioning passengers once the driver produces a valid license and registration. Nor can the officer simply ask for the passenger’s identification. Even if a passenger makes furtive movements the police cannot order the occupants out of the car. There has to be a legitimate concern for the safety of the officer that must be detailed and rational. It seems like that is missing here.
Why Did the Police Ask These People to Get Out of the Car?
The answer to that is simple. They were driving from Greenfield to Vermont. Greenfield has a serious heroin trafficking problem. The city serves as a major distribution center for residents of Vermont. The officer had a hunch, or perhaps some uncorroborated information that these folks had just purchased heroin and were bringing it home. He acted on the hunch and was correct. The problem is that you can’t do this in Massachusetts. The law protects against this. The search and seizure appears to be unconstitutional and should be attacked through a motion to suppress.
Fighting Drug Charges Throughout Massachusetts
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, PC fights drug charges in all parts of Massachusetts and throughout the country. Felony heroin charges are serious and treated as such in the part of the state where these folks are being charged. We know how to defend these cases. Call us at 617-263-6800 or email us if you want Attorney Stephen Neyman to represent you and defend your drug charges.