A homicide detective working for the Massachusetts State Police was on his way home from work when he saw something that caught his eye. Three cars were driving suspiciously in a residential neighborhood in Braintree. The cars pulled over and a large piece of luggage was transferred from one vehicle to another. The trooper had information that involved other drug transactions in that neighborhood. So, the officer approached the group to ask what they were up to. They claimed to be lost and looking for the South Shore Mall. They then left. The trooper then called another officer who effectuated a stop of one of the vehicles, the one where the suitcase was placed. This occurred in Milton on Route 93. The driver, Thu Viet Tran of Revere, Massachusetts was arrested. He has been charged with Conspiracy to Violate the Drug Laws, Possession With the Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a Class D Substance and a School Zone Violation. Over forty pounds of marijuana was seized. The case is pending in the Quincy District Court.
Any Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer who reads this article is no doubt thinking the same thing. What right did the officers have to pull the car over? Well, maybe none. Tran’s lawyer will file a motion to suppress. The judge is going to have to decide whether the stop was justified in the first place. To get past this point the district attorney will have to prove that the officer had reasonable suspicion to believe that Tran was committed, had committed or was about to commit a crime. This suspicion must be based on specific and articulable facts that flow from the officer’s experience. The test is an objective one. A hunch will not suffice. Nor for that matter will being present in a high crime area. In cases like this one where the officer makes the decision to stop and search based on his first hand observations the determination of reasonable suspicion focuses on the totality of the circumstances. Here, the district attorney will probably argue that the trooper’s observations led him to believe that he had just witnessed a drug transaction thereby prompting him to stop and search the defendant’s car. However absent the recognition of anyone in the group as being involved with drugs in the past this observation stands to be challenged.
Motions to Suppress Searches are tools used by defense lawyers to get cases thrown out of court. When these motions succeed the fruits of the illegal search, in this case the forty pounds of marijuana, get suppressed. They cannot be used as evidence against the defendant. As a common consequence, the district attorney is unable to proceed against the defendant and the case gets dismissed. Hiring a lawyer who understands the law of Search and Seizure is important, particularly in drug cases where searches are prevalent. With the right lawyer you can avoid jail time and possibly a criminal conviction. In this case, the School Zone Charge mandates two years in jail so Tran’s choice of a lawyer is going to be very important.
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