This question is brought up in my office several times each month. Someone is arrested and charged with drug trafficking. They had very little or no drugs on them. Or, they were caught selling a small amount of a controlled substance. Small meaning substantially less than the threshold amount needed to prove trafficking. They get arrested and arraigned in court. They are shocked to find out that they have been charged with trafficking. How can they charge me with this? An article I read earlier today gives an example of this. Erik Owen, an Andover, Massachusetts resident was arrested on drug charges in Andover. As a result a location in a neighboring town was searched. There, the police found in excess of two hundred grams of heroin. This was certainly enough product to charge heroin trafficking. The cops also found a firearm and bullets. Owen was charged with trafficking heroin over two hundred grams.
Is There Enough Evidence to Sustain the Trafficking Charges?
Often in situations like this there is not enough evidence to support the trafficking allegation. To properly address this some questions have to be answered. Who owned the property where the drugs were found? What if any connection did Owen have to that property? Did the police have probable cause to get a search warrant to go into the home and conduct a search? More likely than not the cops watched the suspect or someone with whom he was associated make frequent stops at the place where the drugs were found. That may have led them to believe that perhaps this location was a stash house. This in and of itself however should not be enough to permit the search to survive a constitutional challenge. The case of Commonwealth v. Pina, 71 Mass.App.Ct. 653 (2008) says that in Massachusetts more is required. The district attorney is going to have to show reliable, corroborated information that the police knew that Owen used that location to store drugs and that he would go there to get the drugs prior to all deals. There must be some type of proven method of operation, properly documented for the search and seizure to survive.
What if the Search and Seizure is Not Suppressed? Can I Still Win My Case?
In cases like this one you often can. Regardless of what is found at the home the police have to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you had an interest in the drugs and that you were the person who intended to distribute the substances. Simply finding drugs in a home where no one is present is not, by itself going to be enough to prove the elements of drug trafficking. Even if you were present when the search was conducted that still doesn’t mean that that you will lose your case. Presence alone will not result in a conviction.
If you have a criminal legal matter you should call our office. We answer the phones at all hours of the day and night. We have been defending drug cases for nearly thirty years. Call us at 617-263-6800 or send us an email.