Articles Posted in Trafficking Marijuana

Last week members of the Quincy, Massachusetts Police Department received a utility shutoff notice for 228 Norfolk Street. Shortly after noon the officers arrived at the residence to serve the notice. A man, Hao Vu, answered the door and quickly left the home. Officers immediately noticed a strong odor of Marijuana. They also felt heat coming from the cellar. The article further states that the officers saw Marijuana Plants and heat lamps used to grow the drug. Based on these observations the police left the home to get a Search Warrant. During the execution of the Search Warrant eighty one Marijuana plants were found. Shortly thereafter Hao Vu was found along with his wife Annie Vu. Both Annie and Hao Vu have been charged with Trafficking Marijuana. The case is now pending in the Quincy District Court but will likely be prosecuted in the Norfolk County Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts.

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Quincy, Massachusetts Marijuana Trafficking Defense Law Firm

Lawyers Who Defend Drug Crimes in Norfolk County Massachusetts, Quincy, Dedham

The first thing that catches my eye about this case is the actions of the police when they served the utility notice. While they may have smelled an overwhelming odor of Marijuana that in and of itself would not provide sufficient information for a magistrate or judge to issue a Search Warrant. I am sure what in fact prompted the issuance of the warrant was the observation of plants and grow lights. Yet how were the cops able to see these? Where is the basement door in relation to the front door? How big are the plants? The article also mentions that the officers felt heat when the door was opened. What was the heat bill this month compared to prior months?

Massachusetts case law makes clear that without a search warrant or exigent circumstances a search of someone’s property is illegal. Similarly, an illegal entry that results in observations that serve as a basis for probable cause in a search warrant affidavit requires suppression. As to challenges to search warrants, Massachusetts Appellate Courts have stated that the information obtained as a result of an unlawful entry must be excised from the search warrant affidavit. If, absent that information there still exists probable cause for the issuance of the warrant the search will stand. If not, suppression is ordered. In this case, depending on the content of the search warrant affidavit I can see several potential challenges to this search. The officers’ unlawful entry into the home, possibly dubious observations and uncorroborated suspicions might be applicable here.

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Two days ago at about 10:30 in the morning two women were walking past a home in Lowell, Massachusetts when they noticed smoke coming from a roof. Firefighters were called and quickly surmised that the fire was coming from a wood burning stove. While at the scene the firefighters smelled an odor of marijuana. Consequently they called the Lowell Police. A Search Warrant was obtained. During the execution of the search warrant the police found evidence of what they have called a large-scale marijuana. Specifically, the police observed and seized twenty-nine marijuana plants and forty four pounds of packaged marijuana. They also found grow lights, a water filtration system and three thousand five hundred dollars cash, all Drug Paraphernalia indicative of an intent to distribute. The owner of the home, Angel Luna was charged with Distribution of Marijuana, a Class D Substance, a School Zone Violation and Trafficking Marijuana. Bail was set at three thousand dollars cash. Luna’s defense attorney argued that the total weight of the marijuana when accurately calculated will be less than fifty pounds which is under the weight necessary to sustain a Marijuana Trafficking Prosecution in Massachusetts. The case is currently being prosecuted in the Lowell District Court.

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Massachusetts Drug Crimes Lawyer

Trafficking Marijuana in Massachusetts is a felony in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32E. The law states that anyone who trafficks in marijuana an amount of at least fifty pounds but less than one hundred pounds must serve at least one year in the house of correction. This is a minimum mandatory sentence. There is a maximum penalty of fifteen years in state prison.

One troubling aspect of this statute states that the substance trafficked does not have to be pure or have any degree of purity. Thus, the plants will be weighed individually and tallied with the packaged substance. The defense attorney’s suggestion in this case is that a portion of this substance was for medicinal purposes and not for distribution. While the argument is perhaps legitimate Massachusetts does not have a medicinal marijuana law. Right now, only sixteen states have this type of law, those being Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. The District of Columbia has a similar law as well. Right now six states have medicinal marijuana laws pending before their legislature. Massachusetts is one of them. If the law passes and has a retroactive application then Luna might be able to avail himself of its provisions insofar as the plants are concerned. Of course, all of this assumes that the number of plants residents are permitted to grow falls within the facts of this case. But at least for now, if the total quantity of marijuana in this case exceeds fifty pounds Luna’s defense will have to focus on his intent and show a jury that at least the plants were for his own personal use due to certain medical problems.

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dog.jpgLowell, Massachusetts police were watching a Dublin Street address concerned about suspected activity. Then, this past Sunday, with the aid of drug sniffing dogs police were able to intercept a couple of United Parcel Services packages addressed to this location. It is estimated that the two packages contained at least seventy five pounds of marijuana. The drugs were located in heat sealed packages surrounded by coffee beans, a substance commonly used to mask the odor of the marijuana. Once the controlled substances were identified an undercover police officer, dressed as a United Parcel Services worker delivered the packages. They were received by Sanith Siv. Shortly thereafter, armed with a Search Warrant, Lowell Police officers arrived and searched the home where they found the drugs and Drug Trafficking Paraphernalia. Phaly Chhoeun opened the door. Also present were Mao Keo and Samnag Sath. All defendants have been charged with Trafficking Marijuana, a School Zone Violation and Conspiracy. Keo was charged with Possession of a Firearm in addition to the drug charges that all four are facing.

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Lowell Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Defense Attorney

The defendants Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer in this case will likely mount a challenge to the search of the packages. The article is unclear as to whether the packages were opened prior to the undercover delivery or afterwards. Usually, once the drug sniffing dogs alert their handler to the package it is searched. If drugs are found it is then re-packaged and delivered in an undercover manner. That is probably what happened here. Two questions then have to be answered. First, should the reliability of the dogs’ findings be challenged? Second, should the Search Warrant be challenged, particularly if the affiant is relying on the dog’s work.

Not too long ago the Chicago Tribune reported findings only forty four percent of the time that dog sniffing dogs alerted their handler to drugs in cars did drugs or Drug Paraphernalia in fact exits. This can be attributed to the fact that dogs’ noses are so sensitive that they can pick up residue from drugs no longer present at the scene where the dog makes its alert. The dogs might also be getting their cues from their handlers. When the driver of the car searched was of a particular race the accuracy dipped to twenty seven percent, thereby implicating a racial profiling issue. Getting the dog training records and alert history might be a beneficial discovery effort for the defendants in this case. Just how current the dog’s certification is can be an issue that results in the suppression of the drugs and a dismissal of the case. Some courts have held that the use of a dog unjustifiably enlarges the scope of a routine traffic stop. As Supreme Court Justice Souter has said: “The evidence is clear that the dog that alerts hundreds of times will be wrong dozens of times.”

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This past Friday an investigation by members of the Salem, Massachusetts police department as well as officers from Ipswich, Beverly and the Essex County Sheriff’s office effectuated an arrest. The suspect is a sixty three year old Salem man. Ronald Marshall was the target of a month long investigation during which it was learned that Marshall was selling drugs out of his Appleton Street home. The police officers executed a Search Warrant around 3:00 p.m. on September 10, 2010. They found Oxycodone, Morphine and assorted other pills, Class C drugs in Massachusetts. They also located and seized over twenty pounds of Marijuana. Since the home lies within one thousand feet of a school zone the additional charge of School Zone Violation will be filed. The drugs are valued in excess of one hundred thousand dollars. The marijuana alone has an estimated value of seventy five thousand dollars. It is reported that Marshall has criminal convictions for Drug Trafficking and Weapons Charges. The case is being prosecuted in the Salem District Court for now. It is likely that given his prior criminal history and the quantity of drugs that Marshall will be defending these allegations in the Essex County Superior Court.

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Salem, Massachusetts Drug Crimes Defense Attorney

I am interested in knowing with what the district attorney will charge Marshall. Trafficking Marijuana cannot be charged since the threshold for Marijuana Trafficking in Massachusetts is fifty pounds. Many of the pills in Marshall’s home are of a prescription nature may not be unlawful for Marshall to possess. There are no details provided by the article that explain how the police got to Marshall. More importantly, there is no factual explanation of how the officers got the requisite information to obtain a warrant to search Marshall’s home. Some of the things a Massachusetts Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer will want to know is whether someone other than Marshall lived in the home, what room the drugs were found in, how the drugs were packaged, whether there was any drug trafficking or distribution paraphernalia seized during the search and who was present when the warrant was executed.

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Thomas Colbert of Brockton, Massachusetts was arrested Monday and charged with Trafficking Marijuana. It was reported that Colbert went to a shipping facility where marijuana had just been delivered. He arrived in a rented truck. Apparently authorities had been tipped off by a trucking company in Abington that suspicious packages had been delivered from a California address. Drug sniffing dogs alerted police to the possibility that the packages contained marijuana. Colbert, a local wedding photographer tried to take possession of the packages and was arrested. Police located about seven hundred pounds of marijuana in the boxes. The drugs were “professionally wrapped” to conceal the odor of the drugs. The street value of the substance is estimated at over one million dollars. Colbert’s relatives pooled their money and came up with the forty thousand dollars bail money.

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Plymouth County Superior Court Marijuana Trafficking Lawyer

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C Section 32E is the charge Colbert must defend in this case. The law in Massachusetts states that anyone convicted of Trafficking Marijuana in Excess of one hundred pounds and less than two thousand pounds must serve a minimum mandatory three year sentence if convicted. The key to the prosecution’s success in this case will be established by Colbert’s actions at the time he was at the trucking facility coupled with any evidence preceding his arrival suggesting that he intended to access the substance. Renting a truck is certainly a factor that works against him absent a realistic and innocent explanation for that act. What strikes me as odd in this case is that the sender went to great lengths to ensure that the marijuana was packaged in a manner to would avoid drug detection by dogs. Apparently they used fabric softener, shrink wrap, newspapers and grease to mask the odor. How then did the dogs end up smelling the substance. If law enforcement opened the substance prior to the dogs alerting them to their finding then Search and Seizure issues are implicated and perhaps a Motion to Suppress might succeed.

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Last Wednesday Boston Police were conducting a search when they observed a man subsequently identified as Edgar Gonzalez fleeing from a building. Police then grabbed Gonzalez. They noticed that the door to his apartment was opened. The police then learned that Gonzalez had a pending Immigration Order pending against him. As a consequence Gonzalez was arrested and a “protective sweep” of his apartment was conducted. Officers found Marijuana and some drug paraphernalia. They then obtained a Search Warrant. The search revealed over two thousand pounds of marijuana. Bail has been set at one million dollars. Gonzalez is being charged with Trafficking Marijuana in the Dorchester District Court. This case will be indicted to the Suffolk County Superior Court where it will ultimately be prosecuted.

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Boston Massachusetts Marijuana Trafficking Defense Law Firm

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Marijuana Trafficking Defense Lawyer In Massachusetts

The penalty for a conviction for Trafficking Marijuana in Massachusetts over 2,000 Pounds is a five year minimum mandatory sentence. Depending on how close to 2,000 pounds the actual weight lies Gonzalez might be able to negotiate a resolution to a lesser weight and plead guilty to a lower sentence. That however assumes he has no defenses to this case. From the article it appears that the police might have had no reason to stop him. It also might be the case that they had no legal right to search his apartment. Depending on the location of the apartment there might be security or surveillance cameras confirming or contradicting the police suggestion that the apartment door was opened. Gonzalez’ Massachussetts Criminal Lawyer will no doubt investigate these issues and zealously defend him.

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The Lowell Sun reports that nearly seven years ago a significant amount of drug evidenced was stolen from the Dracut Police evidence storage facility. In total about eighty thousand dollars or marijuana was taken from the locked trailer. The officer took the test on December 15, 2009. The results were deemed “inconclusive with suspected countermeasures taken”. The suggestion is that the officer tried to cheat the test. Consequently, on March 3, 2010 another polygraph test was given. This time, it was concluded that the officer failed. Law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts were unable to crack the case. The state statute of limitations has expired and criminal charges cannot be filed against the officer in Massachusetts. However, federal laws provide another avenue for prosecution that permits more time to file charges. An unnamed federal agency is currently investigating this case.

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The Law Pertaining to Lie Detector Tests in Massachusetts

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Lie Dectector (Polygraph) Tests in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts polygraph evidence is inadmissible for any purpose in a criminal trial. This has been the law for over twenty years since the Supreme Judicial Court decided the case of Commonwealth v. Mendes, 406 Mass. 201 (1989). About seven years later the Supreme Judicial Court retreated from its stance on this position and suggested that polygraph evidence might be admissible in a criminal case provided that its reliability is established by proof that a qualified tester who conducted the test had in similar circumstances demonstrated, in a statistically valid number of independently verified and controlled tests, the high level of accuracy of the conclusions that the tester reached in those tests. Commonwealth v. Stewart, 422 Mass. 385 (1996). This ruling notwithstanding lie detector tests are still not used in criminal cases in this state. The prospect of using one of these tests in an appropriate case is something that I would welcome.

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Just two days ago DEA agents from the Bristol County office executed a search warrant at 61 Sunflower Drive, the home of twenty four year old Matthew Alsen. After entering the premises police located Alsen in his bedroom. Supposedly, after inquiry Alsen told the authorities that the drugs were in a closet behind a nightstand. The officers then located a large quantity of marijuana and one hundred fifty six Percocet pills. At the same time officers from Raynham kept a surveillance of Alsen’s mother’s home. She eventually consented to a search of her home where the officers found over one hundred thousand dollars cash. Bail in the amount of five thousand dollars cash was set in the Taunton District Court where Alsen was charged with Trafficking Oxycodone and Trafficking Marijuana. The case will be prosecuted in the Bristol Superior Court in New Bedford.

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Pot, Oxycontin and $100,000 Cash Seized During Bristol County Raid


For several reasons Alsen needs to hire an Experienced Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Lawyer immediately. While the charges are severe there may be some defenses to this case and with the right Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer the potential damage might be minimized.

Trafficking Marijuana in Massachusetts

To satisfy the minimim for trafficking marijuana in Massachusetts the defendant, Alsen, must have possessed at least fifty pounds of the substance. The district courts have jurisdiction over this amount of marijuana and can sentence someone for up to two and one half years in the house of correction with only one year of that sentence being a minimum mandatory. Depending on the quantity of the marijuana and the oxycodone as addressed below, the future for Alsen might not be as bleak as the article seems to suggest.

Trafficking Oxycodone in Massachusetts

Oxycodone is a Class B substance in Massachusetts. As I have mentioned in several previous posts all trafficking cases in Massachusetts carry a mandatory minimum sentence. The length of the sentence depends on the quantity of the substance trafficked. In this case the prosecution is alleging that the 156 pills constitutes a weight that satisfies the element of weight for trafficking. They may in fact be wrong depending on the number of milligrams of each pill. If these were typical oxycodone pills they were eighty milligrams each. That would not amount to a trafficking weight.

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In July of this year Richard Cushnie was arrested in by members of the Massachusetts State Police. He was charged with Trafficking Marijuana after police found more than one hundred fifty pounds in his truck. The estimated street value of the drug is about three hundred thousand dollars. Apparently the drugs were located after police stopped Cushnie’s truck and conducted a search of the vehicle. The article is not clear as to why the officers stopped Cushnie, a New Mexico native, and what their reason was for subsequently conducting the search. Cushnie is being charged with Trafficking Over 100 Pounds of Marijuana. The case has been indicted by a Middlesex County Grand Jury and is now pending in the Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn.

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New Mexico Man Charged With Marijuana Trafficking In Woburn Massachusetts Superior Court

Many questions come to mind when reading this article. Why did the police pull Cushnie’s truck over. Did they have some information relative to possible drug dealings? Were they tipped off to possible drug dealings involving this truck or the driver? Was this a routine traffic stop that escalated into something more? Was a bail set back in July when Cushnie was arrested? Did he post bail or has he been held for two and one half months? The defenses to Drug Cases in Massachusetts involving stops, searches and seizures of drugs in motor vehicles usually center on the legality of the stop. There are literally thousands of Massachusetts appellate cases that address Search and Seizure issues. Each case is fact specific and the distinction among what actions taken by law enforcement are legal and which ones are violative of someone’s constitutional rights are often times slight. This is why any in Richard Cushnie’s situation needs an Experienced Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Defense Lawyer like Stephen Neyman to fight his charges. Many times these cases can be won on constitutional grounds through motions to suppress or motions to dismiss.

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Joshua Medeiros and Kimberly Vasconcellos had been watched by police for several months after neighbors complained about suspicious activity at their Somerset, Massachusetts home. The officers set up surveillance and confirmed the neighbor’s complaints. They observed a pattern of cars pulling up to the home, someone entering the home and leaving after a short visit. Police also witnessed Medeiros meet with people just a short walk from the home and behind a neighboring school. They were able to set up a successful “controlled buy” with the help of an informant. With that information a search warrant was authorized. The search of the property yielded heroin, marijuana, marijuana plants and assorted drug possession and distribution paraphernalia. The couple has been charged with Conspiracy, Possession With Intent to Distribute Heroin and Marijuana, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and Violation of the Massachusetts School Zone laws. Charges are now pending in the Fall River District Court.

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Search of Home in Somerset Leads Cops To Pot Plants, Drug Paraphernalia, Massachusetts Couple Charged

So what happens to Medeiros and Vasconcellos now? As with most drug cases the initial focus of the defense will be on the validity of the search warrant. There will likely be a challenge to the issuance of the warrant based on either the absence of probable cause in the supporting affidavit or the integrity of the facts stated in the supporting affidavit. If the challenge is unsuccessful the defense then might center on the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the charges against one or both defendants. Factors to consider are the relationship between the defendants, the location of the drugs found in the home, the defendant’s habits as drug users, if any and more.

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