Richard Hazzard, a 23-year-old Marlborough man, was recently charged with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute after a traffic stop. Police allegedly pulled him over for running a stop sign. The officer told local news that after he saw that the defendant was “moving around” in the car, he ordered him to exit for a weapons search. The officer found no weapons, but he did allegedly find several bags of a white powdery substance believed to be cocaine. The defendant allegedly admitted to moving around in an attempt to hide the drugs. The defendant’s next court date is scheduled for July 8.
It appears that this defendant might have strong grounds for moving to suppress the alleged cocaine evidence. Here in Massachusetts, persons stopped by police are not required to sit motionless in their cars. It is natural for people to become nervous or anxious when stopped by police, even when they have done nothing wrong. Interaction with the police is undesirable for many people, including those who are not engaged in any criminal activity. Mere fidgeting on the part of a driver is not enough to order the driver out of the car. Furthermore, when police conduct a Terry-type weapons search, the search has to be limited to that which is minimally necessary to determine whether the suspect is armed and to disarm him if a weapon is detected. Here, the alleged “powdery substance” was presumably soft and therefore not consistent with the feel of a weapon. Massachusetts cases say that where a material is soft, a pat frisk of the exterior is enough for the police to uncover the presence of any weapon or hard object that is potentially a weapon. While the defendant supposedly told police that he was trying to hide the drugs in the car, the statement, in addition to the physical evidence, could be suppressed if it was the fruit of an illegal seizure or search. Our Attorney has successfully litigated these motions which resulted in the dismissal of the case against a defendant who was often facing a mandatory jail sentence if convicted.
By way of a pre-trial motion to dismiss or as a defense at trial, this defendant might argue that simply having several bags of drugs is not indicative of an intent to distribute. Multiple baggies can be equally consistent with a recent drug purchase for personal use. Many of those suffering from drug addiction tend to purchase larger quantities of drugs at a time. There is much law in Massachusetts supporting the argument the number of packets or baggies isn’t a determinative factor. There is no indication here that any other items suggesting distribution, such as scales, transaction lists, large amounts of cash, cutting agents, or multiple cell phones, were recovered.