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.

SOMERVILLE AND DORCHESTER MEN FACE CHARGES OF DRUG TRAFFICKING AND RECEIVING STOLEN PROPERTY AFTER ROUTINE TRAFFIC STOP REVEALS $50K WORTH OF METH AND STOLEN CREDIT CARDS

Part One…The Stop

Two gents who are currently guests of the Commonwealth might be questioning the advice of Attorney Sam’s Take about not trying to escape when pulled over by law enforcement. Even when your vehicle is loaded with contraband.

I do stand by my advice, though.

The two gents were Blake Balway, 30, of Somerville and Dorchester’s Michael Scanlan, 44. According to law enforcement, their vehicle was stopped pursuant to a routine traffic stop..

Officer Christopher Cunningham says that he was patrolling the Washington Street area of Wellesley in his cruiser on Wednesday afternoon. Cunningham apparently noticed a blue pickup truck in front of him repeatedly hitting the brakes. The pickup truck then turned onto Grantland Road, allegedly without signaling first. Since the road is a dead end, the officer decided to wait for the truck to turn around.

The officer then stopped the truck. According to the officer, the driver volunteered telling him that he did not have a driver’s license in his possession. The passenger is said to have volunteered the same information about himself. Interestingly, the officer says that each of the gents claimed to have the other’s name.

Not that it mattered much…after a check, the officer determined that both of them had had their licenses suspended.

Since neither of the gents could drive the vehicle (legally, that is) at this point, the officer determined that the truck had to be taken into police custody.

This led to an “inventory search” which led to a whole plethora of trouble for the two gents.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Car Stops, Searches And Seizures

I think you can see where this story is heading. However, let’s pause here to discuss what has already been described.

You may be wondering whether the officer had the right to pull over the truck and interrogate the gents. As the case rolls down the roadway of criminal justice, you will find that this question will be one of the most important questions in the case.

You see, if the police did not follow the laws of search and seizure, then anything they found subsequently could not be used against the gents when they are better known as defendants.

An officer can pull over a vehicle which she observes seems to be breaking the law or driving dangerously. In this case, the officer says that she saw the truck drive oddly (using the brakes so much) and then make an illegal turn down a road.

Assuming all this occurred the way the officer claims it did, the police would have had the right to pull the truck over if only to give a citation.

I would suggest that the gents are likely to contest that the stop took place quite that way, however.

If all just ended at this point, then the officer would give the citation and the officer and the gents would part ways soon thereafter.

The officer, however, indicates that both gents suddenly confessed to have no driver’s licenses with them.

This, then presents the next step up of the problems for the gents, at least the driver. The driver has just confessed to operating a vehicle while his license was suspended. That is a crime. The officer now has the right to decide whether to arrest the driver or send him a summons. Usually, the later is what happens.

It should be noted that this information was going to come out one way or another. The officer had the right to ask for the driver’s license and take his information (particularly when he learned that he had no license with him).

“How does the passenger figure into it, then?”

If the driver has been found to have no valid license, something has to happen to the truck. It cannot simply stay there in the street. The next step is to see if the passenger can drive it home. Indeed he could…if he had a valid license. He didn’t.

A couple of options then presented themselves. Either allow the gents to call someone to drive the truck off, or for the officer to take the truck into police custody for “safe keeping” until a licensed driver is able to pick it up.

For a variety of reasons, the police are allowed to do an “inventory search” when it is in police custody.

That is when the trouble really begins for the gents.

That is the next step of the story with which we will begin…on Monday.

In the meantime, have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

For the original story upon which this blog was based, please go to http://boston.com/metrodesk/2012/12/14/arrested-meth-seized-after-routine-traffic-stop-wellesley/60rx1vgr9XfRC4BrmuurGI/story.html

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