Probable Cause to Stop and Search or Just a Hunch? Criminal Lawyer Discusses Recent Lawrence Massachusetts Heroin Bust

Experienced police officers believe they know exactly how to write reports that will survive constitutional challenges.  They learn this skill at the police academy, through occupational trainings and from losing suppression hearings.  Yet regardless of what they put in their reports they still have to be able to stand up to aggressive cross-examination not only at trial but during evidentiary hearings.  When the facts they put in their report are transparently suspect an experienced criminal defense lawyer is still going to have a good chance at winning.  This post looks at a recent Lawrence, Massachusetts heroin trafficking arrest and my perceptions about the existence of any probable cause to stop and search.  

Lawrence Massachusetts Drug Trafficking Arrest on March 14, 2014

A report in a local newspaper stated that local cops were watching over a neighborhood looking for drug dealing activities.  They saw a passenger get out of a car with New Hampshire plates and quickly return to the vehicle.  The car then drove around and one of the occupants looked down into his own lap.  Oops, then the car crossed over marked lanes thereby committing a civil infraction.  So the cops stopped them and found enough heroin in the car to charge the occupants with trafficking.  So now, all of the occupants, Raymond Paplaskas, Joseph Papa, David Driscoll and Angela Hodgson get charged with trafficking heroin.  Oh, and by the way, Driscoll confessed. 

How Will Their Lawyer Attack The Probable Cause for the Stop

Well from the start it appears that the police were predisposed to stopping this car no matter what happened.  The car had New Hampshire license plates.  It is well known that New Hampshire residents drive down to Lawrence to buy heroin.  They do so to support their own habits and to resell it at higher prices back in New Hampshire.  Their lawyer will make an issue out of this.  Next, did the driver really commit the civil infraction?  Come on.  If they drove down to Massachusetts to buy heroin they are going to drive extreme cautiously.  They are going to try to avoid bringing attention to themselves.  The driver is going to remain in the proper lane of travel.  They are going to buy their heroin and in the case of the dealer, get out of town quickly.  If they are going to use the product they will do so quickly, in an isolated place and again, leave town quickly.  Lastly, when they see the cops coming to pull them over they are not going to have the heroin in plain view.  It is going to be secreted somewhere in the car or on their person.  Their lawyers will attack the logic, or in this case the absence of logic in the officer’s report in support of suppressing the evidence.

What Will The Defense Lawyer Tell The Judge At The Hearing?

After cross-examining the police officers at length the defense lawyer will be well poised to tell the judge exactly what happened.  This is also known as the truth and here it is in this case.  The offices saw multiple occupants of a car with New Hampshire plates stopping in a neighborhood known for heroin sales.  They followed the car for a short distance.  They stopped the car.  They approached and made the occupants get out of the car.  They searched the car.  They searched the occupants.  Then they questioned one of the occupants.  All of this was done without probable cause.  All of this was done without a search warrant.  All of this was illegal and if that is demonstrated to the judge suppression of the drugs might be allowed.

 Massachusetts Criminal Defense

Stephen Neyman will defend anyone whose rights were violated.  If you need a lawyer call our office at 617-263-6800.  We are ready to fight for you now.