Our client is a 53- year old East Boston man with no prior record. In February of 2016, he was walking home from work in Chelsea. An acquaintance, also Hispanic, drove by and offered our client a ride home. There was one other Hispanic male in the car at the time. Within minutes, the car was pulled over and approached by three Chelsea police officers for failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. After the men were ordered out of the car, a search revealed a bag in the closed center console with a substance the officers believed to be heroin (which it was not; read below). Despite the fact that our client never made any statements, movements, or anything else suggesting his knowledge of, or intent to control, the substance in the center console of the acquaintance’s car, and despite the fact that the police never conducted a preliminary swipe to test whether the substance contained narcotics, all three men were arrested and charged with trafficking heroin.
At the station, despite the fact that our client was cooperative, a search of his clothing revealed no illegal products, and he did nothing to suggest he had any narcotics or other contraband otherwise on him, the police conducted a full strip search of our client where he was subjected to standing completely naked in the station while police searched his private areas. Again, nothing was recovered. Our client was held overnight at the station. He then hired our firm, his bail lowered at court the following morning, and he was released. By then, the case had already hit the newspapers.
Several weeks later, after the substance believed to be heroin was tested by the state laboratory, it turned out that there was no heroin or any other narcotic in the bag; it was a substance found in workout supplements. We were able to have the criminal case dismissed, but by then our client had already undergone significant emotional, psychological, and financial damages (attorneys’ fees for the case) related to all of the unlawful actions of these Chelsea Police officers. He was also threatened in his own community; when people learned that his heroin trafficking case had been dismissed, members of the drug trade suspected him to be a “snitch” who had likely become an informant in exchange for having his major felony case dropped.