Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

CAMBRIDGE MAN CHARGED WITH POSSESSION OF CLASS D SUBSTANCE WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE WHEN FOUND WITH OVER A POUND OF MARIJUANA

Regardless of what you thought would happen after Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana…law enforcement continues to look for it. When a lot of it is found, well, that’s when police take a bow.

Even if it is found totally by accident.

Like the new Human Trafficking statute about which we have been talking earlier this week, there is still a way for police to tout the discovery of marijuana as a “win”. This is especially true when money is recovered as well as a large amount of the drug.

Let’s take, for example, the case of the 31-year-old Boston man ironically named Thomas Stoner. He was stopped in a routine traffic stop in Cambridge on Monday and police say they discovered more than they expected. They found a pound of marijuana and more than $1,000 in the vehicle he was riding in.

He now stands charged with possession with intent to distribute a Class D substance, subsequent offense.

It was 5p.m. on Monday when Cambridge Police Officer Brendan Pasco stopped the vehicle on Massachusetts Avenue. Officer Brendan says that he immediately detected the scent of unburnt marijuana coming from the vehicle.

The officer says that he asked the men inside the vehicle if they had any marijuana in the vehicle. The driver, 30-year-old Christopher Jackson, allegedly handed the officer a small, odorless roach from his ashtray. When the officer was not satisfied and inquired again, Jackson is said to have told the officers that he was not sure what he was talking about.

Predictably, Officer Pasco and another officer stepped to the rear of the car, awaiting information on Jackson’s license when they say they suddenly saw Jackson and Stoner making “sudden movements.” The rest of the events could almost be taken from any other traffic stop turned warrantless car search. Officer Pasco says that the movement made him fear for his safety and so ordered the men to exit the vehicle so that a search could be performed.

They did so.

Officer Pasco says that he discovered a black bag on the floor of the passenger seat that contained a large clear plastic bag containing what he suspected to be marijuana as well as business cards with Stoner’s name on them. A small red scale was also found next to the bag.

Officers also seized $1,280 in cash inside Stoner’s pants pocket.

They went before the court in Cambridge on Tuesday where they pleaded “not guilty” . Stoner was released on $3,000 cash bail and Jackson, who was arrested for operating with a suspended license, had his case dismissed after payment of court costs
Attorney Sam’s Take On Vehicle Stops And Searches

Of course, I was not present to see the events unfold in this case, so I have no personal knowledge about this case.

However…!

The description of the discovery of the drugs and money is almost as boilerplate as it is absurdly repetitious of how officers tend to justify automobile searches.

You would be amazed at how many suspects suddenly engage in “sudden” or “furtive” movements in cars while the police are standing right outside looking in. I suppose that there is something about being pulled over by the police that make those inside the vehicle suddenly develop very noticeable and “furtive” twitches all over their bodies.

Anyway, there are a number of issues present in this case which need to be explored by the defense right on the surface.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer would initially approach this matter on two angles. The first is the issue of guilt and the second is the matter of suppression.

If you are a regular reader of this daily blog, you know that motions to suppress evidence are brought in certain cases in order to prevent the prosecution from using certain evidence. The basis for such a motion has to do with the issue of whether law enforcement violated a suspects Constitutional rights in performing an action.

In this case, there are a couple of obvious issues pertaining to the stop of the vehicle. First of all, we do not know what the police are basing their right to stop the car in the first place on. Second, even if they had the right to pull the car over, did they have the right to order the occupants out of the car.

The second issue may be the reason that so many suspects in cars are said to have made suspicious and sudden movements in the car which put an officer in fear. This enables the officer to ask the occupants out of the car…if it is to be believed. If the police did not have the right to order them out of the car or search the vehicle, then everything after that must be suppressed.

Which means no evidence.

Which means case dismissed.

“What issues do you see relating to Mr. Stoner’s guilt or innocence?”

Let’s discuss that tomorrow.

For the original story upon which this blog was based, please go to http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2012/10/24/traffic-stop-cambridge-yields-pound-marijuana/b6GsH9uhTmdiswh8fbamqI/story.html

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