Norwood Police Officers arrested Jorge Vega on drug charges last week after a Norfolk County Police Anti-CrimeTask Force (NORPAC) investigation. According to the Norwood Patch, the task force had been watching Vega and eventually saw him involved in a transaction with another individual from whom they seized cocaine. A week later they successfully applied for a search warrant from the Dedham District Court. The warrant allowed them to search two vehicles "related to Vega" and Vega's Brockton home. The article implies that the police arrested Vega at the time of the search. They seized $30,000 in cash, but no drugs. He was charged with Subsequent Offense Distribution of Cocaine and Operating with a Revoked Driver's License. He was arraigned in the Wrentham District Court and held on $25,000 bail.
It is not clear if they found the money in the home or one of the cars. This and many other facts will make a difference. If found in one of the cars, how were the cars "related to" Vega? Did he own them or did someone else? Were the cars "related to" anyone else? What justification did the police have for getting a warrant for the cars? Since he was charged with a operating after suspension, it appears that his arrest followed a traffic stop. If the police found money in a car, defense counsel will explore these issues and likely file a motion to suppress.
If the police found the money in the home, where in the home? In an area that was "related to" Vega only? Or did other people live in there? Did someone else possess the money? The police obviously believe that it is drug money, but it is just money and we all hope that there is no crime in having a lot of it. The same search and seizure issues will apply here. What was the probable cause to justify the search of his home in Brockton? The sale must have happened in the jurisdiction of the Wrentham District Court, because that is where he was arraigned. If they found drugs at his house he would have been arraigned in the Brockton District Court.
There is plenty to work to do on the issues surrounding search and seizure. However, they only found money and that is not the main component of the case. The actual charges will hinge on the alleged sale of cocaine a week prior to the arrest. So what are the trial issues? If the buyer does not testify, her words to the police will be inadmissible hearsay. And I doubt that she will be willing to testify against Vega because that would involve self incrimination. So, it will be up to the police to prove the one alleged sale based solely on their observations. Could it be that they witnessed innocent activity and were predisposed to believe it was a drug sale. Without the buyer, who can actually say where she got the cocaine. The case, therefore, may not be as strong as it seems.
There are two reasons that this case may be headed for indictment and transferred to the Norfolk Superior Court. First of all, the article states that Vega has been charged with a Distribution (Subsequent Offense). There is no jurisdiction in the Wrentham District Court for this charge. Secondly, Vega has other drug charges pending in the Norfolk Superior Court and the District Attorney may not want to proceed against him to two locations.
In any event, I trust that Mr. Vega has much needed experienced criminal defense counsel on side.