State prosecutors will be unable to use 50 grams of heroin as evidence to try Richard Morris of Oak Bluffs on drug trafficking charges. Dukes County Superior Court Judge C.J. Moriarty ruled on October 13 that police had no legal authority to search Mr. Morris’s vehicle without a search warrant.
Police arrested Mr. Morris when he drove off a Steamship Authority ferry in Vineyard Haven on April 12. He was originally arrested on a charge of receiving stolen property, in connection with the theft of copper wire. During a later search of his vehicle, police found the drugs hidden behind a tail light.
In his motion to suppress the evidence, defense attorney J. Drew Segadelli argued that police had no warrant and no probable cause to believe Mr. Morris was carrying drugs when they arrested him.
“There was no indication from any confidential informants that on that specific day Mr. Morris had purchased drugs, nor was there any evidence that would suggest he did,” Mr. Segadelli wrote in his brief.
In his decision, Judge Moriarty noted that police believed there was sufficient probable cause to search the truck, based on intelligence they received from three confidential informants who said Mr. Morris regularly traveled off-Island to buy drugs. Police also cited an “alert” by a drug-sniffing K-9 unit as probable cause for the search.
Judge Moriarty disagreed. In a ruling he called “very close,” he noted the last information from a confidential informant regarding drugs was 38 days before the arrest.
“There was plain and ample opportunity to obtain a search warrant, and they should have done so,” Judge Moriarty wrote.
Mr. Morris, who was released on $10,000 bail in August, is due back in court tomorrow for a status hearing. He still faces charges related to the stolen property and to heroin dealing charges from a separate arrest on July 4.