Reasonable Suspicion and Drug Trafficking


Massachusetts law allows police to stop and frisk a person if they have reasonable suspicion that a person has committed a crime, they are about to commit one, or the person is armed and dangerous. Commonwealth v. Narcisse, 457 Mass. 1 (2010) places limits on how far police can go with a stop and frisk.

The law around search and seizure is a complicated one. There are many subtle interpretations and those interpretations change all the time. Most recently, the Mass. Supreme Court ruled that when people are pulled over for a civil driving offense, the police must keep them long enough to give them the ticket and let them go; and no longer.

In June 2017, the court reviewed a case where a person was pulled over for routine driving offense. The police officer became suspicious and kept the person there longer than necessary to issue the ticket. Eventually, the police received consent to search his trunk and found roughly 2,000 bags of what the officers believed to be heroin, the defendant was placed under arrest. The entire duration of the roadside stop was between forty and forty-five minutes. "In order to expand a threshold inquiry of a motorist and prolong his detention, an officer must reasonably believe that there is further criminal conduct afoot, and that belief must be based on `specific and articulable facts and the specific reasonable inferences which follow from such facts in light of the officer's experience'" (citation omitted). Feyenord, 445 Mass. at 77.[5] "The dispositive issue, therefore, is whether, after [the defendant] had complied with the usual requirements associated with a [traffic code] violation, a legally sufficient basis existed, in terms of reasonable suspicion grounded in specific, articulable facts. . . ." Torres, 424 Mass. at 158.

When the trooper finished discussing with the defendant the broken lights and the window tint, the facts known to the trooper did not provide reasonable suspicion for a drug investigation. At that point, the trooper knew the following: the vehicle was owned by and registered to the defendant; the defendant's driver's license was current and valid and the vehicle was properly registered, inspected, and insured; there were no outstanding warrants for the defendant's arrest; the driver of the vehicle was its registered owner;[6] and the defendant had no pending criminal charges. When the police do not follow the rules that means they forfeit the ability to use anything they found-so they forfeit the drugs. In legal terms, the term is suppressed. Naturally, the person doesn’t get drugs back—they are destroyed by law enforcement but since the drugs cannot be used in the criminal case, the case/charge is dismissed. ##