Out of State License Plates Plus Drug Arrest Equals No Probable Cause

There are many areas in Massachusetts where concentrations of drug trafficking arrests are made.  Some are in the inner cities.  Some are in economically challenged suburbs.  Others are on major highways that connect Massachusetts to neighboring states.  This last category of cases gives me the most concern and often leads me to believe that my client’s constitutional rights have been violated.  That is for one simple reason.  The percentage of drug trafficking arrests made after stops on these roads involving out of state license plates is proportionally higher than those involving Massachusetts license plates.  To me this is nothing less than profiling.  

Why Did the Police Pull Me Over?  I Wasn’t Doing Anything Wrong

When a new client comes into my office with one of these cases the first thing they ask me is “what right did the cops have to pull me over?”  Once I read the police report it becomes apparent to me and I tell them my thoughts.  It is because of the out-of-state plates.  Of course the report will mention a traffic violation or two and each and every time my client tells me that never happened.  And for the most part I do believe them.  Take for example the recent arrest of Nicole Farone and Kasey Cota, both from southern Vermont.  Farone, the driver, was supposedly committing traffic violations on Route 91 while traveling from Massachusetts to her home state of Vermont.  She was pulled over.  Guess what?  The cops found one thousand four hundred packets of heroin, enough to charge her with trafficking heroin.  Cota was charged with conspiracy and possession of heroin.  Now, without knowing more about this case do you really believe that Farone came to Massachusetts to buy drugs to sell back in Vermont and was anything less than perfectly cautious on her drive home?  Of course not.  The police had their suspicions.  Out of state license plates, driving on Route 91 from Holyoke to Vermont.  Holyoke is a heroin trafficking hub accessed by northern New Englanders to re-up their supplies.  The cops suspected illicit activity and acted on their suspicions.  And they were right.

I Want to Fight These Charges.  What Can I Do?

Even though the cops were right about their hunch, their actions might have been wrong.  You cannot stop someone on a hunch.  So how do you prove that there was no traffic violation?  There are a couple of ways.  Try to get the dispatch tape.  When the officer pulled over Farone’s car find out what he said to the dispatch officer when he called in the plates and her license.  Find out what dispatch’s response was.  See if the cruiser was equipped with a camera.  Ask the judge for a court order compelling the district attorney to get you that footage.  If you can show a lack of probable cause for the stop the entire case will get dismissed.

Even If the Stop Was Not Illegal The Drugs Might Get Suppressed

Even if the judge believes the officer and agrees that stopping the car was permissible the police still need probable cause to search the car and the occupants.  A simple traffic violation does not give the police the right to search you or your car.  So why did the police search Farone and her car?  The article does not provide details but one thing is for sure.  The police go too far way too often.  Hiring the right lawyer to challenge the actions of the police can result in suppression of the drugs.  The result will be a dismissal of the case.  For Farone and Cota the fight is just beginning.

Successful Massachusetts Drug Defense

Hiring the right lawyer is the most important decision you will make if you have criminal legal problems.  The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, PC has nearly thirty years experience defending drug cases.  It is never too late to hire us.  Call us at 617-263-6800 or email our office and we will start working for you right away.