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A recent criminal case we handled related to the suppression of evidence in a drug case due to improper police procedures. A summary of the case and the court findings are detailed below.
A citizen informant told the police that the car in which defendant was a passenger was transporting a substantial amount of marijuana to the driver’s home. The police, in numerous marked and unmarked vehicles, staked out the neighborhood and awaited the suspect vehicle. Due to what we believed was an improper search and seizure, a suppression hearing was held, to determine whether the evidence seized (the large amount of marijuana) could be admitted at trial.
At the hearing it was learned that the only reason the police stopped and searched the vehicle was due to routine traffic offenses (Failure to Come to a Complete Stop at a Stop Sign, and Failure to use Directional). However, the police swarmed and searched the vehicle, and then arrested the defendant.
The Court, at the Suppression hearing, found only one police officer actually saw these traffic offenses. The un-arrested driver of the vehicle was forewarned by her mother that there were many police cars in the neighborhood and to drive carefully. The driver testified she did stop at the stop sign and used her directional, because of her mother’s warning, and that she saw two police vehicles down the road, one behind her, and one to her right. The defendant testified to the same facts.
The Court found the police conduct to be suspect. Even with the informant’s tip they did not seek to obtain a search warrant. The Court found the testimony of the driver, who was not charged, to be credible.
Even though the Court was enamored with the odor and size of the seized marijuana, it suppressed the evidence, and dismissed the charges.