The Quincy District Court will hear drug charges against three people as a result of an investigation at the South Shore Plaza by the Braintree Police. According to the article in the Patriot Ledger the Braintree Police were patrolling the parking areas and saw a woman's "suspicious actions" while she drove in the area. At least two police vehicles followed her car and she parked it in the parking garage. Patrick Williams came out of the mall, met the woman, and the officers saw "some type of transaction." There was another man -- Michael Rodriquez in the woman's car. The police thought the meeting was related to drugs and "approached" all three people. They found four oxycodone pills. The alleged transaction took place within 1000 feet of the Flaherty Elementary School. The police charged Williams with distribution of a class B substance, conspiracy, and distribution of a class B substance in a school zone. They charged Rodriquez with Conspiracy and Possession.
Anyone that reads the Patriot Ledger would know that the Braintree Police likely consider this type of activity fairly common in this area. However, even if it is common, the police are still required to perform their investigations within the confines of the law related to search and seizure. I expect that these three individuals will explore the possibility that the police conducted an illegal stop and search, and seek to suppress the evidence (4 pills) and statements that the police obtained as a result. If the police blocked in the woman's car, then that was a seizure, and unless there were specific "suspicious actions" to justify it, the motion to suppress would be allowed and all cases dismissed. Another issue in this regard would involve the question of how the police found the pills. Were the people searched based solely on the officers vague observations of suspicious activity while a woman drove in a parking lot? Lastly were statements made while the individuals were detained and not read their Miranda rights?
I mention statements, because it is fairly obvious that some or all of the individuals admitted to what was going on. How else would the police know, just from watching, that it was Williams that was selling? For Williams this case is particularly serious because of the school zone charge. This charge carries a mandatory minimum two-year sentence. That means two years (730 days) without the chance of parole. Moreover that sentence runs after the sentence imposed for the distribution. I should note that the legislature has recently softened this statute by making exceptions to the no-parole aspect of the statute in certain circumstances. The sentence, if convicted, however, must still be two years.
The police are vigilant in places that they consider to have a lot of drug activity, but that does not mean that pedestrians and motorists forfeit their rights when they travel into these areas. The people in this case require an aggressive defense that must entail a challenge to the potentially unconstitutional actions of the police.