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.

CAR STOP IN STURBRIDGE LEADS TO DISCOVERY OF A KILO OF COCAINE , THREE ARRESTS AND $28,000

Well, the Massachusetts State Police may have made the arrests for an alleged conspiracy to distribute cocaine between New York and the Commonwealth…but the federal authorities are likely to investigate further.

It happened early this morning to a livery van that was coming from New York City and headed to Lawrence. The vehicle was stopped on Interstate Route 84 at about 5:40 a.m. Law enforcement claims that it seized a kilo of cocaine, more than $28,000 cash and three alleged drug traffickers during a “routine” traffic stop in Sturbridge.

According to the officers, the driver, Ferilyn Holguin, 27, of New York City, was arrested after troopers found he had a warrant for operating a motor vehicle without a license. They go on to claim that after the driver’s arrest, a trooper told one of the passengers, Romon Suero, 40, also of New York, to take the wheel. It was then that officers allege that Mr. Suero had a kilo of cocaine estimated at a street value of $24,000 “packaged in six heat sealed bags strung together and worn like a bandoleer” under his sweater.

The other passenger, Manuel Perez, 44, of Lawrence, was arrested on a warrant for operating without a license, state police said.

The officers then searched the van and say they found $28,050 in cash hidden in a black plastic bag.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Discoveries Of Narcotics During “Routine” Traffic Stops

Generally, these types of cases speed their way to the media by way of law enforcement. Here, the State Police released the statements. You have to wonder, though, at the lack of certain details in the story.

Details which those of us experienced in high level drug cases know to look for.

It would seem, according to the story, that all three individuals were arrested for the drugs. The three of them had better have good criminal defense lawyers, because you can be sure that this case is going to be given a lot of attention from Massachusetts, New York and federal law enforcement agents. While, down the road, the defendants’ interests may well diverge, the number one issue here which counsel should latch onto with a death-grip is summed up in two words.

Search and Seizure.

First of all, why was this car pulled over? It would seem that it was not simply because the driver was recognized for his outstanding warrant. The police describe the stop as “routine”. Was this initial stop even legal? If it was, what was the basis of the vehicle’s search?

“Well, Sam, it seems obvious that the search took place after Mr. Suero was found to be in possession of the cocaine!”

Oh yes. By the way, how was that discovered? Was he searched? If so, what was the basis of that search? Could this vehicle have been targeted as part of an investigation even before it was stopped?

“If there had already been a criminal investigation, wouldn’t that be enough to allow law enforcement to stop the car?”

Nope. Not without the requisite showing. Simple suspicion is not enough.

“Can’t the police search everyone in the car since they were arresting the driver?”

No. In fact, the very fact that Mr. Suero was “ordered” to take the wheel is suspect. What right did the officers have to order such a thing? Why not Mr. Perez?

Isn’t it interesting that the one guy in the car without a suspended license turns out to be the one they find the drugs on!

After finding the drugs they say they found on Mr. Suero, how do the officers come to search a bag that is found in the vehicle? Where was the bag?

All these questions seem to be left open by the proud news of the arrest issued by the Massachusetts State Police.

I wonder why that is.

“Does it really matter, Sam?”

Oh yes. If the answers show that the defendants’ rights were violated, every piece of evidence, perhaps starting from the stop, must be suppressed. That would mean there is no evidence by which the defendants can be prosecuted in terms of drug trafficking. That means that the case would be dismissed.

Of course, the more time goes by, the more folks have time to come up with better answers to such questions…if they were so inclined.

Better retain those experienced criminal defense attorneys quick, gentlemen!

For the original story upon which this blog was based, please go to http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/local_coverage/2013/03/kilo_of_cocaine_cash_found_during_routine_traffic_stop

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