Vermont v. Dubaniewicz

Defendant Nichole Dubaniewicz appealed her conviction for one count of possession of one gram or more of heroin. A Vermont State Police officer pulled over a car for speeding along the interstate near the Town of Guildord. During the stop, the sergeant noticed that both defendant and J.S. appeared to be "dope sick." Although J.S. was the driver and registered owner of the car, defendant did most of the talking during the stop. Defendant told the sergeant that she and J.S. were driving to a grocery store in Massachusetts. The sergeant issued J.S. a written warning for speeding and for having one brake light out and released the car from the stop. The officer made a mental note of the distance and time it would take the pair to drive to the store and return; he also contacted another officer with whom he had conducted several previous drug investigations. The second officer was familiar with both J.S. and defendant, relaying that here were rumors that J.S. was involved in distributing heroin and that he believed that J.S. had recently been charged with a drug-related offense in New Hampshire. Around the estimated time the officer had calculated, he saw the same car traveling northbound on the interstate, and pulled it over for a second time for speeding and unsafe driving. This time, defendant was driving and J.S. was in the passenger seat. The sergeant observed that both parties appeared less "sick." After the second stop, additional officers and a canine unit were dispatched; a locked glove box was ultimately forced open containing bricks of heroin. Prior to trial, both J.S. and defendant filed motions to suppress the results of the search of the car and to dismiss, arguing that: (1) the sergeant’s exit order to defendant was unsupported by reasonable suspicion; (2) the forty-minute detention for the arrival of a canine unit was excessive; (3) the canine examination of the vehicle was unsupported by sufficient grounds; (4) the sergeant’s detention of the car while he sought a warrant was improper; (5) there were significant and misleading omissions and errors in the affidavits in support of the warrant application; and (6) the affidavit did not provide probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant. Because all evidence gathered after the sergeant determined that defendant was not operating under the influence should have been suppressed, including all of the heroin discovered, the Vermont Supreme Court reversed defendant’s conviction of one count of possession of one gram or more of heroin. View "Vermont v. Dubaniewicz" on Justia Law