State v. Marte – Court Rules Last-Minute Revelation Not Prejudicial to Drug Defendant

Anytime a client is arrested on a drug charge, the first thing our Birmingham drug defense attorneys try to do is see if there is a way to have the charges dropped – before the case ever reaches the trial phase.

If that doesn't seem possible, the next course of action is mitigation. We look to see whether certain aspects of the state's case can be eliminated. We look at evidence collected during the traffic stop or statements made during an interrogation.

Again, this is all before we ever get to talk of a jury or a trial.

There are specific legal procedures that must be followed at every step, and if there are any missteps, it can topple a prosecutor's case as a matter of law.

Thus planning is critical to every defense. In State v. Marte, the Rhode Island attorneys didn't have much time.

Here, the case involved a man accused of possession of cocaine with intent to sell. He was sentenced to 10 year, with eight years suspended. Upon appeal, he argued the trial court erred by failing to exclude evidence he was carrying a small amount of cash at the time of his arrest and further in denying any remedy for the late disclosure of the fact that the prosecution intended to present this information to the jury.

According to court records, detectives witnessed a $100 street cocaine sale between the defendant and another man. The defendant was charged with unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

On the morning of the defendant's trial, prosecutor's notified the defense of its intent to question one of the detectives regarding $185 in cash that was found in the defendant's wallet at the time of his arrest.

It' worth noting that the money wasn't seized or photographed or even noted in the arrest report. In fact, it's department policy not to seize any amount under $300.

For this, and the fact that the defense learned of the issue 15 minutes prior to trial, the defense moved to suppress the evidence.

The trial judge ruled late disclosure wasn't a violation of state code and declined to suppress it. In the end, the state and defense came to an agreement that the detective would not be asked about how much money was found on the defendant.

After his conviction, he appealed, indicating the mention of money in his possession was highly prejudicial and he had no time to counter it because of such late notice.

However, the state supreme court affirmed the earlier ruling, reasoning that jurors would not find it prejudicial that a person had some amount of cash on them, indicating that most might reason that most people have a few dollars on them.

Still, given the other facts of the case, the revelation probably did not help this defendant.

Typically, revelations of this nature are frowned upon by criminal courts, and may be grounds upon which to significantly delay a trial. The criminal justice system is founded upon the principle that defendants should have adequate time to prepare their defense and answer charges against them. Surprise witnesses, evidence and allegations – those might make for good television, but they aren't supposed to happen when a person's freedom is at stake.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham on drug charges, contact Eversole Law LLC, Alabama Drug Crime Attorney, at (866) 831-5292.