Possession of Drugs with Intent to Distribute: Case Dismissed After Suppression Hearing
Mr. Griffin was retained after a client was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. The client faced prison time because of the quantity of drugs and a prior drug sales conviction.
The client and her husband were pulled over after leaving a restaurant. They were targets of a drug task force operation being run by the D.E.A. The task force had been surveilling the couple and initiated the stop after learning a drug deal just went down at the restaurant. Once the officers pulled the couple out of the car they searched the car without consent because the husband was on probation. The officers kept the couple on the side of the road for nearly two hours while the task force tore the car apart looking for the drugs. At no point did the client give consent to have the police search her person; but the police conducted a pat down for weapons. The officers found no weapons and no drugs in the car; however, they arrested the client and her husband, because the officers were certain a drug deal had just been completed. Once back at the jail the client was forced to strip, and a guard discovered drugs hidden in the client’s pants.
Mr. Griffin immediately focused on whether the task force conducted an unlawful search or arrest and if the drugs could be suppressed. If the drugs were suppressed the District Attorney would have no admissible evidence and would be forced to dismiss the case.
Mr. Griffin filed a suppression motion (Penal Code 1538.5). The issue before the court was whether the task force officers violated the client’s 4th Amendment right to be free from an unlawful search or seizure. During cross examination, Mr. Griffin was able to point out glaring inconsistences between the different task force officers. The officers were unable agree on the duration of the stop. Mr. Griffin had received dispatch records that established an indisputable timeline. The officer testified to a timeline that could not have been true. Mr. Griffin argued to the judge that the officers prolonged the stop and initiated the arrest before finding the drugs and therefore the arrest and the subsequent search were not valid. The judge agreed and GRANTED THE MOTION TO DISMISS. Mr. Griffin also requested that the judge make a clear factual record. This made it impossible for the District Attorney to re-file the same case again. Two weeks later the D.A. agreed to dismiss all charges.