A local newspaper reports that three individuals, one from Lawrence, Massachusetts, the other two from Maine, have been charged with various Massachusetts drug crimes involving heroin. Now had the folks from Maine read my blog or any criminal defense publications they might not be in trouble right now. The facts of this case are suspiciously familiar. The scenario seems to be reported weekly in the local papers. Here is what the cops say happened. An officer sees a car with Maine. An Hispanic male goes up to the passenger and hands her an item. The passenger is confronted by the police. She denies having any drugs. The driver apparently went into a gas station. When he comes out he is confronted by the police. He confesses to buying ten grams of heroin. All three, the driver, his passenger and the purported dealer are charged with possession of heroin and trafficking heroin. Here are my thoughts on this case:
The Out of State License Plates
Just over a week ago I blogged about how the police in Lawrence made an arrest involving out of state plates. There is no doubt in my mind that when someone from New Hampshire or Maine drive in Lawrence they are going to be stopped and questioned. Reasonable suspicion and probable cause are thrown out the window. The formula is easy for the cops: out of state plates plus driving through Lawrence equals a drug deal. The Maine defendants in this case, Scott Weeks and Julie Andrews need to aggressively move to suppress the stop.
The Exit Order
There was no reason for the police to ask Andrews to get out of the car. What they saw was not necessarily indicative of criminal behavior. There is nothing criminal about talking to an Hispanic male in broad daylight. This fact does not enable the police to start interrogating you. Moreover, it does not permit them to ask you to get out of your car. Exit orders are upheld only when there is a reasonable concern for the officer’s safety or reasonable suspicion that the passenger is engaged in criminal activity or for “pragmatic reasons”. None of these reasons are present here. Suppression surrounding the exit order may be viable for Andrews.
Talking to the Police is Never a Good Thing: Your Words Will be Viewed as a Confession
In this case Andrews and Weeks talked to the police. Doing so was a big mistake. You are under no obligation to talk to the police. I cannot recall a time when one of my clients spoke to the cops and was rewarded by not being charged with a crime. To the contrary, most people who do talk to the police would not have been charged had they not done so. Remember this piece of advice: Don’t do it. Never talk to the police.
Are There Defenses to this Case?
Yes there are. Not all of these people, Castillo, Weeks and Andrews intended to traffic in heroin. More likely, one person sold and two others purchased with the intent to use the drug. For the users, the only crime they committed is possession. Castillo’s case might also be defensible. After all, who is going to testify against him other than the police. Weeks and Andrews have Fifth Amendment privileges that they will want to exercise. Seeing a supposed transaction and not being able to identify the object transferred, if any, will not be enough to secure a conviction against Castillo.
Drug Defense Lawyer
I have defended cases like this one on countless occasion with great success. Call me if you have a case like this one and you need to talk to a lawyer about possible defenses. I can be reached at 617-263-6800 at all times.