Late last week a Massachusetts State Police Officer was on patrol on Route 138 in Raynham. At around 1:00 p.m. he observed a car following a pick up truck too closely, a violation of 720 Code of Massachusetts Regulation (CMR) 9.06(7). The trooper stopped the car and immediately smelled marijuana. He then saw a plastic bag containing marijuana in the center console. The passenger, Alexander Torres, eighteen from Brockton was asked what was in the bag. Torres responded that the drugs were his. There were five passengers in the car. One of them appeared to be shaking. All of them were ordered out of the car. The car was searched. The officer found several more bags of marijuana. Underneath the passenger seat the trooper found a loaded firearm. Torres accepted responsibility for the gun as well. The driver was cited for the Motor Vehicle Violation. Torres has been charged with Possession of a Firearm and Possession of Marijuana.
In the past I have commented that Possession of Marijuana in Massachusetts is not a crime if the amount possessed is less than an ounce. It follows that stopping a car and finding marijuana in the car does not automatically give law enforcement the right to conduct a Search of the car. The constitutional protections associated with Searches and Seizures in my opinion strengthen in these situations. In the past in certain instances the police would have been warranted to search when they observed marijuana in plain view after making a lawful motor vehicle stop. That all changed with the decriminalization of small quantities of marijuana. There must now be more to justify a search after making such a cursory observation. The article does not convince me that this search was permissible. Torres might have a shot at suppressing the evidence seized if his Massachusetts Criminal Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer can argue an Unlawful Search and Seizure occurred.
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