After receiving a complaint from a neighbor that a “foul, chemical odor” was emitting from a specific apartment in an apartment building, local police investigated. The neighbor said that the odor was so pungent that a tenant of the building had been forced to sleep elsewhere, due to headaches and other ill effects.
Upon arriving at the building, detectives observed that the windows of the apartment were blocked by curtains or blinds. They also detected an odor, which appeared to be passing through a window-mounted air conditioner. With the help from the landlord, the police entered the shared basement area of the apartment building. An interior door to the apartment can be accessed through the basement. As they moved closer to the door the police noticed that the smell became stronger.
The police learned that the apartment was rented to a young lady (the defendant’s girlfriend). Detectives maintain that they called the girlfriend’s cell phone many times, with no success. According to a building resident, the defendant (DF) was seen leaving the apartment without the girlfriend (GF). This was atypical, according to the resident.
Detectives and the landlord entered the apartment, claiming that they feared that GF might be unconscious inside and that there may be an imminent chemical explosion. Inside, the chemical stench was overpowering. No one was home. However, the police saw chemistry-like equipment consistent with the appearance with a clandestine Methamphetamine lab. They also noticed a device used for smoking meth.
They left the apartment and contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Clandestine Lab team. The “Clan Lab” team is a specialized unit that responds to reports of synthetic-drug laboratories. Such labs pose risks of fire, explosion, and chemical poisoning. The Clan Lab team responded to the apartment; they confirmed that there was no “active cook” in process, nor was there any imminent danger from the lab.
Next, the detectives applied for, and obtained, a warrant to search the premises. Police recovered a graduated cylinder, caked with Methamphetamine, small clear plastic bags containing meth, digital scales, and other items which they believed were consistent with paraphernalia.
DF arrived home during the search. In an effort to get into his home he pushed past the police. He was arrested and taken to the police station. At the police station he made statements that could be interpreted as incriminating
Attorney Henry Fasoldt agreed to take the case. His first thought was that the initial entry into the home was ripe for a challenge as an unlawful entry. Henry filed a Motion to Suppress. The hearing lasted two days. The judge agreed with Henry’s argument – he found the initial entry to be unlawful; therefore, all evidence obtained as a result of the initial entry was suppressed. The District Attorney’s office appealed the judge’s decision. Ultimately, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (SJC) agreed to hear the case. There are few cases in Massachusetts that address Methamphetamine searches and seizures. After 18 months of litigation, the SJC upheld the lower court’s decision. The judge’s decision to suppress the materials found in the home was declared to be correct under the law. With no evidence remaining, the drug charges against DF were dismissed.
*Note – DF is a well-educated, chemical engineer. At the time of the incident he was abusing drugs. He has been clean for more than two years.