Lowell, 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.
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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