Possession with Intent to Distribute
Lowell drug defense attorney Ryan Sullivan represented a young woman who was accused of having made a drug deal and possession additional drugs with intent to distribute. The charges were brought by the Lowell police after observing a car pull up to a person the police believed was a drug user and the “user” interact with the person in the car. A short time later the car was stopped, the driver was ordered out of the car, and she was searched where cocaine was found in her waistband. The police report stated that the drug user had told the police that she had purchased cocaine from the driver. The case was handled in the Lowell District Court with officers from the Lowell Police Special Investigations Section as the witnesses.
Although the police report stated that the officers had observed a drug transaction and the “buyer” told the police about the sale prior to the client’s car being stopped, Attorney Sullivan did additional investigation in the case, consulted with his client, and reviewed the report meticulously. There was clearly more to the story.
Given the charges, if convicted the punishment for the most serious offense would be two and a half years in jail, although many young offenders receive a period of probation with drug treatment, fines, and conditions.
Motion to Suppress
Attorney Sullivan filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized by the police. There were four officers who were called as witnesses. This allowed Ryan to ask the drug detectives various questions on cross examination and develop a clear picture of everything that occurred on the day of the arrest. Rather than asking one officer all of the questions, Attorney Sullivan limited his questioning of each detective so that his strategy would not be revealed to any particular detective. This allowed Ryan to elicit helpful information from each detective without them even knowing they were helping the defense!
What ended up being revealed was that the client’s car was stopped prior to the police ever speaking to the “buyer.” While the police report was technically accurate, its phasing suggested the police knew that a crime was committed before the police stopped the car, rather than after. Without the investigation conducted by Attorney Sullivan, this fact would have allowed the police to go forward with the charges and proceed to trial.
After the motion hearing, Attorney Sullivan argued to the judge that the police lacked the authority to stop the car as they had (1) not witnessed the drug deal; (2) had not spoken to the witness before the stop; and (3) even if they were allowed to stop the car they conducted an improper search of the vehicle and his client.
The judge agreed with Attorney Sullivan’s argument and allowed his motion to suppress evidence. The prosecutor, left with no evidence, dismissed all charges against Attorney Sullivan’s client. The young woman was able to go on her way, continue her life, and avoid the possibility of a felony conviction on her record.
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