The Norwood Police seized cocaine from two men in the Home Depot parking lot last week after a detective watched them meet and drive around the parking lot. According to the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin, detective David Eysie had suspicions about Miguel Escobar-Cruz and had been keeping an eye on him. On Wednesday he watched Cruz drive to Home Depot and meet Walter Mullock. Mullock got into Cruz's vehicle and they drove through the lot in what Eysie described as a "meaningless drive." The police believe that drug dealers pick up buyers and drive around while making their sales in order to avoid detection.
In this case, the Transcript states that "Eysie pulled Cruz over after the drive was complete." and "[w]hen Eysie pulled them over, he stated what he had witnessed, at which point, they were cooperative." Apparently, the police claim that Cruz's cooperation included giving the police his supply of cocaine and perhaps even admitting that he sold some to Mullock. The police later obtained a warrant to search Cruz's Norwood home and found more cocaine, packaging materials, and $4,000 of alleged drug money.
The police charged Cruz with Distribution of Class B Cocaine, Conspiracy to Violate the Drugs Laws, and Possession of Class B Cocaine with Intent to Distribute, Mullock was charged with simple Possession of Class B Cocaine and Conspiracy to Violate the Drugs Laws.
Cruz got caught with the cocaine in his car, admitted to selling cocaine to Mullock, and had more cocaine and other incriminating evidence back at his house. So it is open and shut, right? Maybe not.
From the perspective of a criminal defense attorney, there is a weak link that may turn the case in Cruz's favor. It involves every individual's right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Here, that weak link is the stopping of Cruz's car. Twice the article says that Eysie pulled Cruz over. If this is true, then there very well may be a viable motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of that stop.
Stopping a car is a seizure in the constitutional sense. The police are not allowed to stop a car without witnessing a civil motor vehicle infraction or having probable cause or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. In this case, what evidence did the detective have to support his stopping of the car?
Eysie must have had some suspicions about Cruz, otherwise he would not have been following him. Those suspicions could not have amounted to much, otherwise he would have stopped and arrested Cruz before he got to Home Depot. So the reason for the stop must have been the so-called "meaningless drive." How is driving around a parking lot evidence of criminal activity? Other than a hunch that turned out to be accurate, there did not appear to be anything else to support the stop of Cruz's car. And hunches do not amount to adequate grounds to step over the protections against unreasonable searches and seizures that the constitution provides.
If this analysis is correct and the warrant for Cruz's home was based upon the stop in the parking lot, then that evidence will also be suppressed.