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Massachusetts v. Jackson

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Police officers found Defendant on a bench smoking a marijuana cigarette with two other individuals. The officers arrested Defendant and searched his person and his backpack. Defendant was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The social sharing of a marijuana cigarette is similar to a simple possession of marijuana, and therefore, does not constitute a drug distribution or transfer.

    Facts.

    Defendant was sitting on a park bench with two other individuals when police officers observed what they believe was Defendant sharing a marijuana cigarette with the two individuals. The officers approached the Defendant, seized the cigarette, and searched the Defendant’s person and backpack, absent a warrant. In the backpack, the officers found a plastic bag with a substance that resembled marijuana, weigh less than one ounce. Defendant was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

    Issue.

    Whether the warrantless search of the Defendant’s person and backpack violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

    Held.

    Yes, the warrantless search of the Defendant’s person and backpack violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

    Discussion.

    The government contends that the officers had probable cause to search Defendant because the officers believed Defendant was going to commit or was committing a crime, distributing marijuana. The court noted that the term distribute means “to deliver other than by administering or dispensing a controlled substance.†Additionally, the term deliver is defined as “to transfer, whether by actual or constructive transfer, a controlled substance form one person to another, whether or not there is n agency relationship.†Further, the court found that instances where a defendant intends to share a drug with another individual, a buyer, the passage of the drug between the two individuals, the joint possessors who have simultaneous possession, does not constitute a distribution. However, when a defendant gives another individual a drug and serves as a “‘link in the chain’ between the supplier and consumer [,]†the defendant is distributing drugs.  Here, the Defendants actions do not constitute a distribution because the Defendant’s action, socially sharing a marijuana cigarette, is not similar to a drug transfer or distribution. Also, because the state enacted an Act in 2008, which decriminalized small possession of marijuana, as the Defendant had, the police officers did not have probable cause to search Defendant’s person or backpack.



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