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Alleged drug charges must be preceded by a valid stop and frisk

New Hampshire authorities take abuse of prescription medication seriously. That was proved true just recently in the arrest by Manchester police of a 23-year-old woman on drug charges relating to three loose gabapentin prescription pills found inside one of her pockets. According to a spokesperson for the police, an officer stopped to talk with a woman who was walking in the middle of Merrimack Street at about 2:45 p.m.

The officer determined that the woman had two electronic bench warrants for her arrest from Franklin. After arresting her on the warrants, he found the three pills in her coat while searching it. Gabapentin is known as Neurontin, which is allegedly a drug that is currently being abused on a widespread basis. Authorities allege that studies show that Neurontin, a sedative, is often used with opioids and is sometimes associated with fatal overdoses.

However, the police have two major problems that could result in a viable defense for the accused. First, they made the arrest without apparently determining if the woman had a valid prescription for the pills. If the pills were part of a doctor-prescribed prescription, that would likely be a complete defense to the criminal charges. Secondly, the initial stop of the woman in the middle of the afternoon on a public street may not be associated with any kind of suspicious behavior.

The press reports indicate that the officer may have had no justifiable reason to stop the woman in the first place. Under both New Hampshire and federal constitutional law, an officer cannot stop an individual unless there is a reasonable suspicion that illegal activity is afoot. It is reported that the officer did not discover anything about the warrants until after conducting the investigative stop. There was nothing reported in the woman's behavior that appears to comprise facts allowing for a "stop and frisk" type of seizure. Without additional facts justifying the stop and interrogation, defense counsel may likely be able to obtain a dismissal of the drug charges.

Source: unionleader.com, "Manchester woman charged with possessing gabapentin", Paul Feely, Oct. 19, 2017

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