Dedham Police officers executed a search warrant last Saturday at the Walnut Street apartment shared by Ashley Deberry and Robert Perea. According to the local news, the police found 14 bags of marijuana weighing one gram each and a digital scale in their bedroom. In other bedrooms they found sandwich bags, and "drug paraphernalia." The police then arrested the pair and charged them with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. While the police read them the Miranda warnings (right to remain silent, etc.), Perea said that all of it belonged to him. The police, however, claimed that "DeBerry's possessions were very close to the pot." The police then moved their search on to a car belonging to Jessie Pelonquin, another resident of the apartment, and found a purse containing medication for which Pelonquin had no prescription.
In order to obtain the search warrant, the police obviously had some investigative information to support their claim that the apartment contained drugs. This is generally done with undercover purchases of drugs or by information received from informants. In the event that informants were used, those informants are generally not expected to be witnesses and proof of that DeBerry and Perea intended to sell the marijuana would, therefore, be circumstantial. Since possession of one ounce of marijuana has been decriminalized, and the police found only 1/2 of an ounce, the prosecution will likely argue that the scale and the separately package bags shows that sales were anticipated. Since the sandwich bags were found in a different bedroom, they would have limited relevance. The paraphernalia was also in a different bedroom, and although not described in the article, such items are generally associated with using marijuana, as opposed to selling it.
It is just about always wise to heed the Miranda warning and say nothing. Here, however, an interesting thing happened. Perea, in the midst of the warning tried to take responsibility away from Deberry. He, therefore could later argue that his admission was made prior to being fully advised of his right to remain silent. This would be done with a Motion to Suppress Statements. DeBerry, on the other hand, may wish to rely on the admission for her own defense. After all, just being in the presence of, or leaving personal property near an illegal substance does not establish possession of the substance.
Surely counsel for all three people arrested will closely analyze the police application to the Dedham District Court for a search warrant. Some questions: Did the application establish that there would be drugs in the apartment on the date and time of the search? Did it establish probable cause and authorize a search of all of the bedrooms or just the one shared by DeBerry and Perea? Did it authorize a search of Jessie Pelonquin's car parked outside? How about the purse in the car?