Petersburg Pilot -

Case of suspected heroin dealer proceeds

 


Public Defender Eric Hedland, representing 20-year-old Christafur Morrell, was recently denied a Motion to Suppress evidence by Superior Court Judge William Carey.

Morrell was indicted by a Grand Jury in early July on two charges of Misconduct Involving a Controlled Substance after being arrested June 26 in Petersburg for possession of heroin.

Hedland moved to suppress the evidence in the case on two bases: “there was not valid consent to the warrantless search” and “the officer’s initial request to search was improper,” according to court documents.

In making their determination on the motion, the court examined the actions of Petersburg Police Captain John Hamilton who made the arrest at the Scandia House where Morrell was staying.

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure, which includes searches performed without a warrant or without voluntary consent.

In order to prove voluntary consent, the state must provide “clear and convincing evidence” and consider factors such as the defendant’s age, education level, how long they’ve been detained and how long they’ve been questioned preceding the giving of consent.

The court determined that the defendant did voluntarily consent to the search of his hotel room where 3.35 ounces of a “brown substance field tested positive for heroin” was found by officers.

“Mr. Morrell was not detained and the officers did not gain entry into the hotel room by illegal means: Captain Hamilton asked Mr. Morrell if he could come inside, and Mr. Morrell said ‘yeah, come in, come in.’”

Further, since “the police had reasonable suspicion to request a search,” the search was not found to be improper by the court.

This was based on a number of factors including marijuana found in a room Morrell had rented previously at the Tides Inn, which police investigated after receiving a report from manager Shay Childs that the room was left damaged by the defendant.

Police also observed “a wad of cash” in Morrell’s room at the Scandia House and had been tipped off that he “was hanging out with known drug dealers.”

Pending any delays, the case is set to go to trial the week of Nov. 17.

 

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