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January 6, 2014

Drug Trafficking Conviction Reversed Based Upon Invalid Warrantless Search of Vehicle

In many cases, the evidence obtained against a criminal defendant can and should be suppressed in court, based upon the police's violation of the defendant's constitutional rights in obtaining that evidence. Generally, if the police did not follow constitutional procedure, then a jury may not know about the evidence obtained as a result of the constitutional violation. A recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case illustrates this concept.

In Commonwealth v. Diaz, the defendant was convicted of trafficking cocaine in an amount of 28 grams or more, based upon two packages of cocaine that the police seized from the defendant's vehicle during a warrantless search of the vehicle. Several months prior to his arrest, the police had obtained information from a confidential informant that the defendant sold drugs, including at a building where a business named Family Oil was located, and that he packaged drugs there.

The police observed the defendant's vehicle parked behind the Family Oil building, located on private property, and entered the property. They saw the defendant exit the building and quickly place his jacket into his car and try to go back into the building. The police immediately seized and restrained the defendant. They then entered the building, searched the occupants, and found cocaine on two of them. Returning outside, the police searched the defendant's vehicle, without a warrant to do so, and found two bags of cocaine.

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November 1, 2012

Former Drug Lab Employee Malfeasance Could Give 200,000 Convicted Drug Felons a new shot at Freedom - Boston Criminal Defense Attorneys Parker Scheer

For nine years, Annie Dookhan worked at Hinton State Laboratory in Boston, testing drug evidence for criminal cases. During those nine years, the laboratory conducted almost 200 thousand drug tests. Sixty thousand were personally conducted by Dookhan for 34 thousand cases. Now the results of these drug tests, which led to the conviction of some of Boston's most dangerous criminals, are in question. Dookhan admitted she sometimes recorded drug evidence as positive when it was negative. Basically if some samples tested positive, Dookhan would list the whole batch as positive.

Dookhan now faces two counts of obstruction of justice. She also faces one count of falsifying her academic records after her resume to Hinton claimed she earned a Masters degree from the University of Massachusetts.

Over 100 drug defendants from Dookhan's criminal cases have been freed, had their bail reduced, or had their sentences suspended. A drug lab prosecutor, friends with Dookhan, has resigned. A special "drug court" has been set up to oversee "Dookhan defendants." The state's judiciary has asked the governor for almost $9 million to handle legal challenges, while Boston's mayor has asked for $15 million to handle the "crisis". Massachusetts's district attorneys are expected to request at least another $10 million.

"While Dookhan's actions may have led to the conviction of some dangerous and guilty criminals, it may also have resulted in the false incarceration of innocent people. This is unacceptable and will be remedied," stated Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Frank O'Brien, of Parker | Scheer.

"If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, and you believe that the Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain may have been involved in testing in connection with the case, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers."

October 5, 2011

Boston Police Arrest 14 from Dorchester Drug Scene

On September 30th, Boston Narcotic police arrested14 of so-called "impact players" from the violent Dorchester drug scene. The arrests, part of "Operation Independence," included known gang members and associates with violent criminal histories from parts of Dorchester including Bowdoin Street, Geneva Avenue, and Olney Street.

"This action is a message to any individuals engaging in violent activity in our communities," said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, "we will be relentless in our efforts to hold violent perpetrators accountable."

Officers from the Drug Control Unit and Youth Violence Strike Force zeroed in on 18 violent gang members involved in street-level drug dealing who had either been indicted in court, or had complaints sought against them. Boston Mayor Tom Menino said in a press release, "the BPD will not allow the senseless acts of a few individuals to create fear in the lives of Boston residents and families."

The full article can be seen here.

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July 11, 2011

Boston Drug Den Cleaned Out

Boston city workers helped residents of Dorchester breathe a sigh of relief after they cleared out a trash filled vacant lot that housed an old camping trailer that had become a 'drug den' and setting for illegal activity. Darryl T. Smith, assistant commissioner of constituent services at the city's Inspectional Services Department, said cleaning out the lot "gives hope to the community because they had to put up with trash and vagrants."

The trailer was littered with used drug needles, feces, trash, and housed at least two people. It was located in an abandoned lot near Paxton and Harvard streets. The clean up was spurred by repeat complaints to the mayor's Neighborhood Response Team of Dorchester and Mattapan.

Inside the trailer two juveniles had been arrested last week for allegedly using drugs inside. Tyrone Davis, 40, of Boston owns the adjacent property at 8 Paxton Street, and the Cave family of Boston owns the lot in question. Both Davis and the Caves have been charged with related fines.

The full article can be seen here.

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April 3, 2011

Busted: Largest Drug Ring in Cape Cod Area

Twenty-seven members of the largest drug ring in the Cape Cod area were arrested in connection to a drug trafficking scheme. The ring is thought to have over thirty total participants. Authorities seized heroin, cocaine, boats, and a limousine.

Authorities through a series of tips were able to narrow down suspects a confidential tip. Finally, after a two-year investigation of Kyle Hicks, Adalberto Graciani, Kelvin Frye, and Russell Rose, federal agents were able to apprehend the four leaders of the operation. Arrests were made when agents intercepted packages containing drugs sent and exchanged between the men. Often the drugs were cleverly disguised: one man attempted to transport heroin by inserting the drug into a cupcake; while another put the drug into a toy box. The agents were first tipped off by E Customs, a jet ski and motorcycle repair shop. The front shop entertained a lot of customers, but few owned motorcycles or jet skis.

Of the twenty-seven people arrested twelve will face a maximum of forty years on federal charges, the other fifteen, charged with conspiracy to violate the controlled substance act face sentences up to ten years. Arraignments were made the 1st of April, but there was no mention of trial dates.

The full article is featured here.

Attorney Tofani, of counsel to Parker|Scheer, LLP and an associate of the firm's criminal practice group, reflects:

Both the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article Fourteen of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights guarantee the right to be free from government action that amounts to unreasonable searches and seizures of persons and property. Subject to very few exceptions, investigating officials are required to present in the form of an affidavit, to a magistrate, sufficient evidence to establish probable cause in support of a search warrant. Thus, searches and seizures conducted in the absence of a warrant in authorization thereof are presumably unreasonable for purposes of constitutional analysis.

Accordingly, defense counsel will likely challenge the evidence presented to the court, supporting the suspected existence of illegal activity. An anonymous tip, standing alone, is insufficient to establish probable cause in support of a search warrant. Ultimately, if defense counsel can establish that the search warrant relied upon was issued in the absence of probable cause, the evidence obtained there from can be suppressed as it is 'fruit of the poisonous tree.'

The warrant applicants will generally present evidence that corroborates any anonymous tips provided by informants, usually acquired though independent police investigation. Additionally, a heightened level of scrutiny is applied when the court determines the probative value of an anonymous tip. More specifically, the court will scrutinize both the tipster's basis of knowledge and their veracity. In other words, the warrant applicant is required to present evidence establishing how the tipster knew what they claim to know; and, why the tipster is credible, and the information provided is reliable. If the record contains insufficient evidence to satisfy these prongs, the court will likely disregard the anonymous tip, and look to alternative evidence bolstering the warrant applicant's suspicion of criminal activity. If there is nothing more, than the warrant is out along with any incriminating evidence obtained there from.

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