Evidence Suppressed in Felony Drug Possession Case, Charges Withdrawn

A client was charged with felony Possession with Intent to Deliver Cocaine and Criminal Use of a Communication Facility. The lawyers at ZLF filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence based upon the police lacking probable cause to believe that he had committed, or was in the process of committing, a criminal act. The court agreed, and all evidence recovered was not permitted to be used against him, leading to the full withdrawal of criminal charges. 

In early 2015, police arrested another individual for a felony drug charge. Thereafter, they attempted to utilize this person as a "confidential informant," who would receive leniency on their charges in return for purchasing narcotics off of another suspected drug dealer. Customarily, an investigating officer would obtain extensive details about both the CI and the target suspect to ensure that the information being received is reliable. Thereafter, the CI would be used to arrange for the purchase of a known quantity of drugs at a particular location, completing the purchase in the presence of police officers. 

Despite being led by an officer with decades of experience, this particular investigation was mishandled from the start. Aside from race, police officers obtained no information from the CI about the target suspect, nor did they properly verify that the CI was a reliable source of information. Furthermore, rather than listen to the phone calls allegedly exchanged between the target and CI, the police did not personally overhear any discussion between the CI and caller, leading them to rely upon the CI's statements alone.

On the incident date, the client - an African-American male - pulled his vehicle into the parking lot of a convenience store. The CI did not visually identify the client as the individual with whom she previously spoke. Police did not observe the client engage in any unlawful activity, nor did they have the CI attempt to buy drugs from the client. As part of a pre-determined decision to make an arrest, numerous police officers drew their weapons and arrested the client. However, the police argued that he was merely being "detained" for further investigation, and that the encounter converted to an arrest when they noticed an odor of marijuana.

A suppression hearing was held on the matter, where the details of the mishandled investigation were brought to light. During cross examination, the officers were less than forthcoming about the leniency promised to and received by the CI. After writing legal briefs, the Court ruled that the police did in fact arrest the client without probable cause, ordering that all recovered evidence be suppressed. This led to the charges being withdrawn by the Commonwealth.