Defense Lawyer

Under Massachusetts law, the odor of burnt marijuana alone does not provide sufficient suspicion of criminal activity to justify an order to exit a motor vehicle.  This is based on the fact that the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a civil infraction.

What is important to remember is that in order to require occupants of a motor vehicle to exit based on the odor of marijuana, there must be probable cause to believe that a criminal amount is present within the vehicle.   It seems implausible, however, to believe that a law enforcement officer will be able to tell that there is greater than an ounce of marijuana in a vehicle based on odor alone.

An order for an occupant to exit a stopped motor vehicle based on marijuana possession or usage may also formed by an objective belief that the occupants of the vehicle possess marijuana with the intent to distribute it, or that the operator is under the influence of marijuana.

As a result, if you are stopped in and ordered out of a motor vehicle because of marijuana, contact a defense lawyer who will fight for you and your rights.  Don’t go at it alone, make the call today.

Holiday Drinking Advice, by Worcester Criminal Lawyer

What is Important to Keep in Mind When Drinking Alcohol and Driving a

Car Over the Holiday Season

As Thanksgiving is approaching, it is the time of year for homecoming parties and renewing old friendships. For many this will include consuming alcohol at the local bar scene with those you haven’t seen in a while. If you are consuming alcohol and subsequently get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, it is important to remember that there are going to be more police officers on the road during this time of year.

According to criminal lawyer Shane W. Surrette of Worcester, MA, these additional officers will be looking for drivers that they suspect are under the influence of alcohol.  Being under the influence under Massachusetts law doesn’t mean you have to be drunk or unconscious. The standard is if the alcohol you consume reduces your mental-clarity, self-control, and reflexes, thereby reducing your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Read literally, any impairment at all will suffice under Massachusetts law.

With this in mind, you don’t have to be swerving all over the road to be stopped by police and suspected of operating under the influence. For instance, the police may stop a motor vehicle for committing any motor vehicle infraction, such as speeding. As soon as the officer then smells the odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the interior of the vehicle, the scenario is going to turn into a suspicion for operating under the influence.

What is important to remember at this time is to remain calm and polite to the officer as he/she is watching your every move.  Also, as the police will inevitably ask you to perform field sobriety tests, it is crucial to note that you are not obligated to perform such tests, and under Massachusetts law, any refusal to perform these tests can’t be used against you at trial. 

It must be stated, however, that without such tests, the officer is going to have to make a decision on whether he/she believes you are impaired based on all other observations. In this scenario, the police will generally err on the side of caution and arrest, as the standard to arrest is much less than that needed for a conviction at trial.

The up side, however, is that being arrested for operating under the influence doesn’t guarantee a conviction. Your most important decision at this time is to hire an experienced Worcester OUI Attorney to expose the government’s case and fight for you at trial.

For more information, contact criminal lawyer Surrette at the link below:

Faced w/Drug Charges-What to Do? by Criminal Attorney Shane Surrette

What to do When Faced With Drug Charges Today in Light of the

State Drug Lab Scandal

If you are facing drug charges today, you may feel that the deck is stacked against you. Not only are there mandatory minimum sentences, but there are also enhanced penalties based on drug weight, according to criminal attorney Shane W. Surrette of Worcester, MA. For example, if you are in possession under the law of 18-36 grams of cocaine, this is sufficient weight for trafficking, calling for a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 2 years.

Possessing anything less than 18 grams of cocaine would be insufficient for trafficking and would likely subject you to an allegation of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.  Depending on the particular subsection you are charged under, this could call for either a mandatory minimum sentence of one year incarceration or no mandatory minimum sentence at all.

The differences referenced above are obviously significant, and with recent allegations that a chemist at the Massachusetts crime lab was not even testing substances, and was making substances test positive for drugs when drugs weren’t even present,  your confidence in the judicial system may be compromised.

As a result, it is important for you to hire a Worcester Criminal Drug Lawyer who is going to challenge the Commonwealth’s testing procedures, and all quality assurance procedures to make sure that your rights are scrupulously protected.  Don’t hesitate, you future depends on it.

Meaning of “Under the Influence” by Worcester Defense Attorney

What Does It Means to Be Under the Influence of Alcohol

Under Massachusetts law there are two ways for the government to prove that someone committed the offense of operating under the influence of alcohol, according to defense attorney Shane W. Surrette of Worcester, MA. The Commonwealth may allege that at the time of operation, the person’s blood alcohol content, as measured by a breathalyzer test, was .08 or above. The Commonwealth may also allege operation on a public way at a time the person’s alertness, judgment, and ability to respond promptly were reduced by the consumption of alcohol.

When there is a breathalyzer test taken that is .08 or above, the Commonwealth will normally proceed under both theories of OUI. When there is a breathalyzer refusal or failure of the machine to record a number, the Commonwealth will only be able to proceed on the under the influence or reduced alertness branch of the statute.

In cases proceeded on under both theories, the Commonwealth has more to throw at the proverbial wall in hope that something sticks. For example, if the breath test result is high, but the person shows no signs of impairment, the breath test will be highlighted at trial beyond the under the influence theory, and vice versa.

What is essential in any OUI case whether one is charged under one or both prongs of the statute, is to choose a criminal defense attorney with experience trying cases with and without a breathalyzer test. When the government throws it all at the all hoping that something sticks, go with an experienced OUI attorney who can even out the odds.

For a free consultation with Attorney Shane W. Surrette, click the button below:

Why is the Smell of Pot Not Enough to Arrest? by MA Defense Attorney

In a recent Worcester Superior Court decision, the marijuana search and seizure laws were applied and the case highlighted that an exit order from a vehicle is not appropriate where the odor of burnt marijuana alone provides the criminal suspicion. Similarly, probable cause is not established to allow for a search of a motor vehicle based solely on the odor of burnt marijuana, unless there is probable cause to believe that a “criminal amount of marijuana” is present within the vehicle, according to Defense Attorney Shane W. Surrette of Worcester, MA.

While the defendant in the case admitted that he had smoked marijuana earlier in the evening and had a small amount of marijuana within his possession, it was held that the Trooper’s observations and the defendant’s admissions were insufficient to allow for an exit order or subsequent search. This case highlights that additional factors need to be present beyond the mere odor of less than a criminal amount of marijuana to order an individual out of a car and to search the car. 

What is important under the marijuana search and seizure law is to what extent is the exit order and subsequent search solely based on the odor of burnt marijuana? For example, Courts will often look to whether there is any objective criteria indicating that the officer might have a reasonable fear for his safety or that of the public. Also, Courts will see if there are additional factors to bolster reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, such as whether or not there are any instruments such as digital scales which might be suggestive of an intent to distribute the marijuana.

Similarly, if there is erratic operation coupled with an odor of marijuana, the additional factor of the erratic operation may provide sufficient suspicion for an exit order based on a belief that the operator is driving while under the influence of marijuana/narcotics. As the factors in support of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity increase, the more likely it is that the exit order and subsequent search will be upheld.

To read more of the article in the Telegram & Gazette click here.

To contact Defense Attorney Shane W. Surrette, please click the link below:

Ratings and Reviews

10.0Shane W. Surrette
Shane W. SurretteReviewsout of reviews
National Trial Lawyers Top 100