In the criminal justice system, any road can lead to Drugland. Law enforcement knows this and you should too.
On June 7, in Peabody, there was the more typical drug investigation at play. It resulted in the alleged seizure of five kilograms of heroin and two kilograms of crystal methamphetamine. Three men, believed to be part of a large drug trafficking network based in Mexico were arrested in the Massachusetts State Police and federal Drug Enforcement Administration joint investigation. The alleged network is believed to involve distribution of the drugs from Mexico to Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.
Law enforcement agents were stationed at a hotel on Route 1 and observed two men leave with large duffel bags and drive away. The vehicle was stopped in Saugus and four kilograms of heroin was allegedly recovered in the duffel bag.
The men, and a third man, were arrested. The authorities then executed a search warrant on the men’s hotel room and say they found two kilograms of methamphetamine and an additional kilogram of heroin.
The total estimated value of the drugs is $1 million.
Sometimes, alleged participation in the drug trade is discovered unexpectedly. Take, for example, a recent story from Stoneham. There, a letter carrier saw smoke pouring from a second-floor apartment as he was heading to work. The Fire Department was called for what turned out to be a two alarm fire. The firefighters took care of the blaze although the fire, water and smoke now made the apartment uninhabitable.
While the tenant ho lived there was not home, something else allegedly was.
That would be approximately 480 marijuana plants, the estimated value of which is said to be $2 million worth. According to the police, the plants could produce upward of 960 pounds of marijuana buds.
“It’s something we take pretty seriously,” Stoneham Police Chief James McIntyre said. “Drugs are something that’s in every community and something we take very seriously.”
On a usually quiet street mere feet away from Stoneham’s Town Common, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and crews in white hazardous-material suits spent hours removing the plants in cardboard boxes marked evidence. Shards of glass poked from charred window panes that firefighters broke for ventilation. Police tape blocked the street from traffic.
A police spokesman added that “This was a major, sophisticated, drug-producing operation that has been shut down.”
Attorney Sam’s Take On Drug Trafficking Investigations And Seizures
As our second case demonstrates, law enforcement does not need to be in the middle of a drug trafficking investigation in order to find, and use, drug evidence. The police need only be at a lawful vantage point. For example, if an officer just happens to be strolling by your house, notices it is an unusual shade of blue, he or she cannot simply barge into the house, search your closets and have you prosecuted for what is found inside. That would not be a lawful vantage point. However, if you call the police because of a domestic violence situation, and they come to your house, and as you open the door they see that you have several bags of heroin sprawled out on the coffee table, you can be prosecuted for the heroin. The officers were at a lawful vantage point.
“Sam, is that fair? After all, what if I call the police because I was simply being a good citizen reporting a domestic violence matter?
Well, regardless of whether or not you feel it is “fair”, it is the law. You need to remember that, regardless of what is going on, police and the courts do not appreciate the fact of criminal behavior. Regardless of how it is uncovered. Therefore, unless there is some kind of prohibition involved, you will be prosecuted if evidence against you was legally found.
Criminal investigations begin in all sorts of ways. Evidence can be discovered at the scene of a fire, it could be a tip from a confidential informant, an officer could witness something in the field or simply stumble upon something while doing something else entirely.
The laws are somewhat complicated as to when evidence seized by law enforcement must be suppressed (unusable by the prosecution). It involves what is considered part of your expectation of privacy and when that expectation can be rendered meaningless.
Recently, courts have been dealing with the question of information on a cellular phone. The suppression issue involves whether or not you have the right to expect privacy in what is on your phone. It is similar to the issue of whether a police officer who happens to be at your office for some reason can simply decide to go into your computer and read everything found therein.
Basically, without a warrant, he cannot. As with most situations in the law, there are exceptions. The laws regarding those exceptions change often as new cases are handed down.
In any event, the rules regarding suppressing evidence and thereby trying to get a criminal matter dismissed, or at least weakened, involves rules that you are not expected to really know. It is one of the things we hear about in law school. It is one of the things we get better at dealing with the more experience we have.
You have heard me repeatedly say that, in order to have the best chance in the criminal justice system, you should have an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side in a criminal case. This is but one additional reason why this suggestion is based on reality.
If you don’t have someone by your side who has experience in dealing with these issues, he or she could be the most brilliant attorney on the planet. But if that brilliant attorney does not truly understand the rules and how they play out in reality, that brilliance is worthless to you.
For the full stories upon which this blog is based, please go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/06/07/state-police-seize-million-drugs-arrest-three/KyZuLn0ELfgRMdPwbL02kI/story.html