On a hot July day in 2013, my client was staying at his friends house when there was a knock on the door. Behind the door dressed as a mailman and wearing a secret microphone was a United States Postal Inspector. In his hand was a box from what turned out to be fictional address in Los Angeles. The box was suspicious to the Postal inspector because of the way it was sealed. The inspector had dealt with many cases like this in the past and suspected there was something more in the box. The Postal Inspector intercepted the package and began working with the local police. Immediately, the police and the inspector brought in a drug sniffing dog to confirm what the inspector probably already knew that there was drugs in the box.
The next day the Postal Inspector tried to deliver the box to my client but he was not home, so they tried again the following day. The next day the Inspector drove a mail truck to the house and rang the bell. My client answered the door and took the package. Almost immediately the local police swarmed in and took him into custody. They never said he was under arrest but they ordered him to the ground, put handcuffs on him and took him to a cell at the police station. Sounded like an arrest to me.
At the police station the box was opened for the first time and low and behold the 15 pounds of marijuana was found.
My client was charged with Possession of a Class D Drug with Intent to Distribute. A very serious charge in Massachusetts. A large bail was placed on my client and a jail sentence was being offered by the prosecutor.
I assessed the case, did some further research and felt the police needed a warrant to open the package. A warrant would have easily have been obtained in case. All the police or postal inspector needed to do was tell a magistrate or a judge why they believed there were drugs in the package. They had more than enough reasons, the way it was packaged, the fictional address and hit from the drug sniffing dog. Yet, they never asked for a warrant.
I filed a motion with the court seeking to suppress all of the evidence because it was an unconstitutional search. Even for mail deliveries warrants are needed. We had a hearing and while questioning the postal inspector I got him to admit that they had no idea how much drugs were in the package and that they intentionally decided against getting a search warrant.
In her ruling the judge agreed with me and suppressed all of the evidence. Without the evidence of drugs there no way government could prove the case at trial.
The District Attorney then decided to appeal the Judge’s decision. They filed a motion to the a single judge of Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The SJC is the highest state court in Massachusetts. They argued that the judge was wrong and that the her decision needed to be reversed immediately. They lost. So they filed another motion asking that judge to change his mind and they lost. Then the District Attorney’s Office filed another motion saying the judge was wrong and asked the entire court to rule and again they lost. The Supreme Judicial Court denied three motions be the District Attorney and upheld the order suppressing all of the evidence.
Finally after nearly two years the court dismissed the case and my client was able to get on with his life and get his bail money back.
Patrick Donovan is a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney handling both felony and misdemeanor cases. Attorney Donovan is a former prosecutor who has appeared in fifty courts in Massachusetts. Attorney Donovan represents clients charged with drug crimes, dui, domestic violence and restraining order crimes. If you or someone you know has been charged with any type of crime in Massachusetts click here to schedule your free no obligation consultation with an experienced Massachusetts Criminal Attorney.