Braintree Police Officers arrested Eric J. Tobin, 25, of Taunton, and Jonathan R. Melo, 23, of Dorchester, for allegedly violating Massachusetts Drug Crimes Laws at Braintree’s South Shore Plaza this afternoon.
Jonathan Melo was charged with Distribution of a Controlled Substance and Conspiracy to Violate the Drug Laws; and Eric Tobin was charged with Unlawful Possession of Drugs and Conspiracy to Violate the Drug Laws.
According to the Braintree Police Department, officers’ suspicion became aroused when they observed a red SUV driving up and down rows of parked cars at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree. Police identified the driver of that SUV as Eric Tobin, who ultimately allegedly got out of the car and got into a gray Buick. Braintree Police Officers allege that Tobin was in that Buick for less than a minute before then getting into his own car and leaving the area.
Braintree Police stopped by cars, and after being ‘evasive’ to officers questions, officers search both cars and allegedly recovered two small bags of heroin in Tobin’s car; and $1,800 on the possession of Jonathan Melo.
Notwithstanding the recover of drugs and having been charged with violating Massachusetts Drug Laws, both Tobin and Melo would be smart to challenge the Search and Seizure of the officers’ initially stopping them and searching their vehicle.
In Constitutional challenges in Search and Seizure in Massachusetts Drug Cases such as these, whether or not drugs or other contraband was ultimately found is irrelevant if the initial seizure and search was not lawful. In other words, if the Braintree Police Officers had no probable cause, or at the very least, reasonable suspicion, to believe that Melo and Tobin were committing a crime, then their being stopped and searched was unconstiutional.
In this context, without additional observations that might have elevated the officer’s suspicions that a crime had taken place, I would venture that both these men have merit in challenging the officers actions. For instance, there doesn’t appear to have been any indication that either men were known to the officers as drug dealers or users; they didn’t see drugs or money actually being exchange; they didn’t see observe any ‘furtive’ movements by either party; and neither man reportedly committed any motor vehicle violations that might justify their being stopped on independent grounds.
Under Massachusetts Drug Laws, an officers’ ‘hunch’ that a drug deal had taken place, even if correct in hindsight, does not justify an illegal detention and search.
Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Lefteris K. Travayiakis has extensive experience in defending Massachusetts Drug Crimes and other Massachusetts Major Felony Crimes, and is available 24/7 for consultation.
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