Interviewer: Are there any particular drug cases that you find that are more unique or some of your favorite big cases? Are there any cases you can recall?
James Abate: I can recall several. I recall a case last year where we had a young man who had been charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. There were a lot of questions regarding the stop because he had been accused of traveling at a high rate of speed but the officer didn’t indicate what that rate of speed was and what his basis for the stop was other than that. There were really serious questions about whether the search was valid.
The police then questioned him in the station and he gave a complete confession, violating the “just shut up” rule. He then went to court. He was a young man, about 18 years old or so. He didn’t want his parents to know about it. His parents were very wealthy and could have easily retained a lawyer for him. He went with a public defender that put him right into the pretrial intervention program without even looking at the evidence. He then went back to school and never did anything about his probation requirements. He violated his probation and was kicked out of the pretrial intervention program.
When he came home to visit his parents, he was pulled over for a failure to register his car. They found a warrant out for him and he was then again facing the original charges and this time without the option of pretrial intervention. We re-examined the case based on the lack of probable cause and somehow we were able to get him into pretrial intervention, but he was on a very short leash. Really, that’s an unusual result. It was a Somerset County case and quite often Somerset County tends to be an extremely unforgiving place for criminal charges.
We really dealt with the gamut of everything you see in a drug possession case. We dealt with the motor vehicle stop. We dealt with distribution. We dealt with confessions, probable cause, pretrial intervention, and violation of the pretrial intervention program for not doing what he was supposed to do. He was fortunate because his reason for forgetting about everything was that he was a student at Boston College and was just busy with schoolwork. He was busy with something that was a very productive activity. He wasn’t going back to selling drugs or anything like that. He didn’t get in trouble in the interim. It was simply that he didn’t do what he was supposed to do.
Interviewer: Is there anything else that you’d like to bring up as far as drug charges go?
James Abate: You should always keep in mind that even though you may be eligible for a diversionary program, you may have been illegally searched and a suppression investigation should be launched by an attorney. Finally, never, ever confess. Invoke your right to remain silent. Invoke your right that you do not want to consent to a search.
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