Four people are in custody after authorities seized an “unusually large amount of meth” in a major suburban drug investigation.
The investigation, which began in 2018, culminated in a February search warrant execution at a house on 15th Avenue Northwest in Rochester. Officers seized several pounds of meth with an estimated street value of $65,000. Rochester Police Department Chief Jim Franklin touted the incident as a highlight of an eleven-year drug interdiction effort. “We are going to proactivity and aggressively go after narcotics cases in the City of Rochester,” he vowed.
Chief Franklin also encouraged people to give officers anonymous tips. “Good information” is always useful, he said. Additional details, like a location and suspect description, are optional, he added.
This extremely lengthy police investigation probably began with some very flimsy circumstantial evidence. To begin such an investigation, police need reasonable suspicion. Otherwise, permanent surveillance and frequent drive-bys are a waste of resources at best, and illegal at worst. Reasonable suspicion in this area includes:
That last bullet is probably the most important point. During drug trials, police officers routinely testify that, based on their “experience,” if people enter and leave a house quickly, it is probably a drug house. If there is additional circumstantial evidence, most Ramsey County judges support the officer.
Usually, the best way for a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer to undermine this testimony is to attack the officer’s “experience.” Typically, this experience is just some anecdotal lessons from a few years on the job. If that’s the case, the witness may only testify about what s/he saw at that time, not about some prior “experiences.”
Note that there is nothing illegal, or even inherently suspicious, about any of these activities. The same is true with regard to methamphetamine production. Meth is made from legal ingredients which are available at most Walmarts, including:
Unless the person buys a very large amount of all these ingredients at about the same time, there is probably no reasonable suspicion. In that case, the longstanding fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine may apply.
Nonetheless, it’s very difficult to invalidate a drug investigation at the reasonable suspicion stage. The evidentiary standard is too low.
As the investigation gathers momentum and moves to the search warrant phase, it sometimes resembles a snowball going down a hill. That white boulder may look large and intimidating, but it’s really just a pile of snow. If a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer stands in front of it, the whole thing may disintegrate.
Challenging the confidential informant’s reliability is a good way to stand in front of the snowball. Almost all search warrants rely, at least in part, on an informer’s tip. Ramsey County judges evaluate these tips based on a number of factors, such as the source. Anonymous tips are very common in drug cases. They’re also easy to challenge in court. If the tipster does not vouch for the information, that says a lot about the tip. Uncorroborated confidential informer tips are not very reliable either. CIs always receive something in exchange for information.
Other factors include the specificity of the information and the elapsed time between the tip and the officer’s follow-up on that information.
If most or all of the reliability factors do not favor the prosecutor, a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the charges thrown out of court.
Ice, Quartz, Crystal, or whatever other street name used is a Schedule II narcotic. That places it alongside things like PCP and cocaine. Schedule II drugs have no medical benefit, are highly addictive, and highly dangerous if abused. So, meth possession and distribution penalties in Ramsey County are very stiff.
That’s the bad news. Fortunately, in terms of a successful resolution, there is lots of good news as well.
As outlined above, there are a number of procedural defenses in drug cases. Additionally, it’s not easy to connect a person in a living room with drugs in a bedroom. That’s especially true since the burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) is so high in these cases.
Even if there is no defense, a St. Paul criminal defense lawyer may still be able to engineer a successful plea bargain. In a large urban area like Ramsey County, meth cases almost always go to designated drug courts. In these places, court personnel, including prosecutors, have special training in drug cases. So, if the offense is nonviolent, the defendant has a substance abuse problem, and the defendant affirmatively seeks help for that problem, prosecutors often offer some kind of pretrial diversion.
If you are facing serious drug charges, you need an experienced St. Paul criminal defense lawyer. So, contact Capitol City Law Group, LLC today. Go online now, call us at (651) 998-7634, or stop by 287 6th St E, Suite 20, St Paul, MN 55101.