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Drug charges against driver exiting festival may be defensible

What are the chances that a man leaving a marijuana advocacy festival in New Hampshire would be speeding right after leaving the festival? It would seem not very great. A state trooper, however, asserts that is exactly why he stopped the man on Route 134 in New Sharon just after he had left the festival in Starks. The trooper eventually arrested the man for drug charges and refusing arrest.

When the trooper stepped up to the car he says that he saw items in the car and in the pocket of a passenger, although these items are not described. The officer used these alleged sightings to justify getting the driver and passenger out of the car. The trooper reports that the driver did not cooperate in getting out and that he pushed the officer's hand away. Based on that, he apparently arrested the driver for refusing arrest, and then searched the car.

The search allegedly turned up hashish, marijuana and paraphernalia. The trooper charged the driver with possession of hashish, marijuana and paraphernalia, along with the refusal to be arrested. In that respect, he alleges further that the driver did not want to get out of the car, kept arguing with him and slammed the door when he got out. According to the news reports, the trooper asserted a right to search the car because he had probable cause after seeing actions inside the car when he pulled it over.

The officer also used the fact that the car was leaving the annual music and art festival, which he said was an event to advocate the use of marijuana in New Hampshire. It appears that there is a reasonable possibility that this was an illegal arrest and illegal drug charges. The officer's statements, as reported in press reports, appear to be self-serving and contradictory in some respects. Defense counsel will focus on testing the officer on his story and determining whether a full-fledged defense exists.

Source: centralmaine.com, "New Hampshire man arrested after leaving Starks pot festival Sunday", Doug Harlow, June 29, 2016

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