The Quincy Police have filed several charges including marijuana trafficking against a Quincy couple after an incident last Thursday. The story in boston.com reveals that the prosecution may have difficulties proving many of them.
It all started when a utility company decided to turn off services at a house on Norfolk Street. The company enlisted the help of detectives from the Norfolk County Sheriffs office to enter the house. There is no explanation for this. Perhaps it is the company's policy to have law enforcement on hand for this task. But, why detectives and why not local police? Defense counsel will surely explore whether of not there was a secondary law enforcement motive for entering the house. If so, then they should have had a warrant, and there may be grounds for a motion to suppress.
Back to the story. When the utility employee and the detectives arrived, there was a man spreading mulch outside the house. Apparently, neither the detectives nor the utility employee bothered approaching the man to discuss the utility situation. According to the article the man left "[w]hen police entered the house." So they saw the man in the yard, and just went into his house. Why not speak to him first? Why not ask him for the key? Why not tell him the reason for going in his house while he is spreading mulch outside? It also makes you wonder if the man was investing in mulch while failing to pay utility bills.
When the mulch man left, the detectives took note of his license plate. Again, if this was simply a utility shut off, why were they interested in the man's license plate at this point in time. I assume that the police had not discovered anything suspicious at the time that the man drove away. Was there more going on here? Was there a law enforcement motive to the entry of the house? There is no mention of whether the house was locked or not. Surely, absent some emergency, utility companies are not breaking down doors to turn off power. Strange.
In any event the detectives smelled "raw marijuana" when they went inside. After looking around, they found marijuana plants growing under lights. The Quincy Police and members of the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency then got a search warrant and eventually discovered 65 growing marijuana plants and 18 small dried marijuana plants.
The police eventually found the mulching man's vehicle in another part of town. They knocked on the door and two boys told the police that they did not know where their father was. The police, however, could see him inside and after initially refusing to do so, the man came out and was identified as Hao Vu. When the police started to question him, however, Vu ran off and tried to hide behind a restaurant. He was arrested and charged with Trafficking in Marijuana, Conspiracy to Traffick Marijuana, Disorderly Conduct, and Resisting Arrest.
The police return to check on the boys and when nobody answered the door, they forced their way in and found Annie Vu in a bedroom with four children. Armed with information that the marijuana grow house was in the name of both Hao and Annie Vu, they arrested Annie too. She was charged with Trafficking in Marijuana, Conspiracy to Traffick Marijuana, and Resisting Arrest.
Unless there is a lot more to this than what has been reported, these two have been grossly overcharged. Lets start with Annie. Just because she is on the deed or the lease from the marijuana grow house does not mean that she was involved with the growing. Where is the evidence that she was ever at the house while the plants were there? And conspiracy? The prosecution needs evidence that she and Hao agreed to distribute marijuana. Where is that evidence? How about resisting arrest? Refusing to answer the door and hiding in a bedroom is no where near enough evidence for that charge. One has to threaten a police officer or create a risk of injury to a police officer for this charge to be sustained.
Now lets look at the charged lodged against Hao Vu. Trafficking charges are based upon weight. For marijuana, the minimum weight is fifty pounds. How will the prosecution establish the weight of these plants? Will they weigh just the portions suitable for smoking? Surely, they don't have fifty pounds of "buds." What about the proverbial "stems and seeds." How about the actual roots? Moreover, will the police weigh the plants after a proper period of drying? If they don't dry the stuff and just put it in plastic bags, the moisture will cause their evidence to rot. There were a total of 83 plants. They would each have to weigh just under ten ounces to make the cut.
As for the conspiracy charge, again, I just don't see any compelling evidence that Annie and Hao got together on this. There's no mention of it in the article. The same analysis with regard to the resisting arrest charge applies to Hao. Running away is not enough, unless there is something about the run that would put the officers at risk of injury. Here, they said that he ran and tried to hide behind Quizno's. That's not going to do it.
Some have said that when you make the police chase you around they will have their revenge. Perhaps that accounts for the charge of Disorderly Conduct. What exactly did Hao do to merit this charge? When and where did he cause public inconvenience or alarm? It looks like they were throwing everything possible a these two. They will need experience legal counsel to sort this out.