An appellate court recently reaffirmed a lower court’s ruling that approximately 150 pieces of hard candy laced with marijuana could not be admitted as evidence in a drug trafficking trial out of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The defendant, Mr. Vega, had been charged with felony drug trafficking after a Cleveland State University police officer pulled him over and seized the treats. With those candies now out of the picture, the defendant has only one charge remaining: minor-misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Sealed Packages Cannot Be Searched So Easily
The case begins when Vega was pulled over by an officer for running a red light. The officer told investigators that the telltale smell of marijuana was highly noticeable when he approached the car. He also said that three cellphones and some hard candy were also in plain sight. He called for backup and began a search of the vehicle, which is not being contested.
During the search, however, he found a half-opened USPS package that had two more unopened envelopes inside. When asked what was in the envelopes, Vega told the officer it was stickers. After waiting an hour for a drug sniffing dog that would never arrive, the officers tore open the envelopes themselves and found more of the marijuana hard candies inside.
Mr. Vega retained the services of Cleveland criminal defense attorneys Brandon Henderson and Justin Weatherly from Henderson, Mokhtari & Weatherly. Right away, our attorneys recognized that the officer never established probable cause before ripping open the envelope. Just being able to smell marijuana on someone does not give the police the right to conduct a thorough, invasive search of a vehicle. The filing for the hard candies to be suppressed as evidence was approved by a lower court and once again affirmed by a higher court. Common Please Judge Dick Ambrose also concluded that Mr. Vega’s rights had been violated due to the fact that he was held in excess of an hour when the only possible charge at the time was a minor misdemeanor.
Be sure to visit our blog frequently for important updates to this ongoing case. We are hopeful that with the evidence properly suppressed, our client will be able to get the best possible outcome. If you need a Cleveland criminal defense lawyer for a drug crime case of your own, be sure to contact our firm and ask for an initial consultation to learn more about your rights and our services.