These summaries of case decisions are intended for informational purposes only. They are not intended to be interpretations of the law, nor do they encompass the subtleties of each case. Therefore, reference to the original text is indispensable.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Commonwealth v. Clint Daniel & another.

Appeals Court   February 16, 2012

Facts: Boston police officer Paul DeLeo, Jr. was patrolling on Adams Street in Dorchester on December 13, 2009 at around 3:40 a.m. He noticed a Toyota with a non-functioning headlight and made an abrupt left turn without using directional signal. Officer signaled for the vehicle to pull over. The driver then made an abrupt stop in the middle of the lane, which almost caused the officer to run into it.
As the officer approached the vehicle, he smelled odor of freshly burnt marijuana. The passenger, later identified as Daniel, claimed that the odor was from the party they had been to where others were smoking marijuana. Unconvinced, Officer asked both Daniel and the driver, later identified as Tayetto, whether they had any marijuana on them or in the vehicle. Tayetto therefore produced two small bags of marijuana from her clothing. Officer instructed her to place those on the dashboard and proceeded to inquire whether there were more drugs. Daniel then emptied all his contents from his pocket onto the dashboard without asking. Alarmed by this odd behavior, Officer asked both to step out of the vehicle and performed a search. Officer also searched the vehicle and recovered a loaded semi automatic pistol from the glove box. The defendants were then arrested because neither was licensed to carry a handgun.  Their defense attorney moved to suppress the firearm recovered from the glove box based on the argument that the evidence was recovered from a search without probable cause.

Issue #1: Whether or not a police officer can recover more than two package of marijuana from a car while a lawful stop based on fresh odor of burnt marijuana.

Yes. Based on the defendant’s odd behavior, the reckless driving manner and the marijuana recovered from the defendant, the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed. In addition, the officer has reasonable grounds to concern for his safety since he was patrolling alone.  (LP)