Part Two: The Search
On Friday, we began the tale of two gents who went from routine Massachusetts traffic stop to a whole mess of legal trouble.
You see, Blake Balway and Michael Scanlan (hereinafter, collectively, the “Defendants”) had been stopped while driving. Neither had valid driver’s licenses. Therefore, in accordance with police procedure, the officers decided to impound the truck until someone with a license could come and get it.
Impoundment meant an inventory search. It was the product, or products, of that search that changed the vehicle to impounded truck to piece of evidence.
Wellesley police Lieutenant Marie Cleary tells us that, “Officer Cunningham located a container in the vehicle that had a glass pipe, which he recognized as those used to smoke illegal drugs.” And, of course, where there is smoke, law enforcement generally hopes to find fire.
Apparently, they did.
Lt. Cleary claims that officers found bags of crystal methamphetamine, more than 170 grams, which is worth an estimated $50,000.
But that was not all that they found.
Police also found multiple credit, debit, and rewards cards that did not belong to either of the Defendants, as well as a digital camera and accessories, iPad, sneakers, and an air brush system with markers and pens.
Police tracked down three individuals whose names were listed on the cards and those folks told police that their cards had been used to make unauthorized purchases. Now, the police are investigating whether the Defendants were the ones who made the purchases and hope to obtain video surveillance from stores where the items were bought.
The Defendants now face a variety of criminal charges including trafficking methamphetamine, distribution in a drug free school zone, conspiracy to violate drug laws, receiving stolen property, and receiving stolen credit cards. The driver is also facing charges of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license and failing to use a turn signal.
Somehow, I think those last two are likely to be the least of his problems.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Car Stops And Discovered Evidence
On Friday, we discussed the events which led up to the search of the Defendants’ truck. We concentrated on whether or not the officers had the right to stop the car through whether they had the right to do an inventory search.
Clearly, whether or not the officers reacted properly will be the subject of motions to suppress which counsel for the Defendants will surely bring.
“Sam, if the evidence is not suppressed, it seems like these guys are looking at a pretty hopeless case, right?”
Well, that depends. You see, any experienced trial attorney, particularly one practicing criminal law, knows how to think outside the box. In other words, things may not always be what they seem.
From the outside, it would seem that the officers have a rock-solid case should the motions to suppress fail. After all, they have the Defendants right there controlling the car that has all this contraband in it. It must be theirs and they must be dealing the drugs, right?
There are details which we do not know in this case which will end up being very important to the defense. First of all, WHERE were these things found? For example, were the drugs in a bag on the back seat floor? Were they at the feet of the passenger? Were they in the trunk?
How about the stolen merchandise? Were the stolen cards in a locked glove compartment? Were they on the person of one of the Defendants?
There were two people in that truck. Did either of them own the truck? How many people had access to the truck? Were there fingerprints found on the items seized in the truck?
Finally, even assuming the matter survives motions to suppress…are the facts as described by law enforcement believable? Did both of the Defendants instantly volunteer not having valid licenses? For the driver, at least, that was tantamount to a guilty plea to driving with a suspended license.
“If the judge has already credited the testimony of the officers in denying the motions to suppress, what difference does it make?”
Well, it should matter. If a jury believes that the officers are lying about the stop and the seizure, then the question must be asked what else they could be lying about.
Oh, that’s right. I forgot. Police officers never bend the truth into unrecognizable figures.
How silly of me.
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