North Adams man cleared of drug charges after arrest ruled improper


NORTH ADAMS -- Charges have been dropped in the case of a man arrested in January for alleged possession of illegal drugs and ammunition after a judge ruled that police did not have probable cause to search the man.

Daniel Smith, 31, of Hawthorne Avenue, North Adams, was arrested Jan. 27 by police responding to reports that he was disturbing the peace outside a Briggs Street home. Residents called police twice to report that Smith was on their property -- in the first instance he was looking through their windows with a flashlight, they said, and in the second he was banging on the door.

When police arrived on the second occasion, Smith was about 50 feet away from the house's driveway in his black pickup truck, beginning to drive away. Officers boxed in Smith's vehicle and approached him with weapons drawn. Smith allegedly resisted arrest when taken into custody and later, police found Suboxone, painkillers and $2,491 in cash on Smith, as well as a box of illegal ammunition in his truck.

Smith's attorney, Lori Levinson, of Great Barrington, filed a motion to suppress evidence against him because officers lacked probable cause to arrest him.

Judge Michael Ripps agreed, ruling that since the crime for which Smith was initially taken into custody -- disturbing the peace -- is a misdemeanor, police must have witnessed the crime to have probable cause for an arrest, according to state law.

In an affidavit, Smith stated that he was at the house because he had sold the resident firewood and was not paid. One resident of the home said her husband, who was not present at the time, was addicted to painkillers and likely owed Smith money.

The District Attorney's office, in court, argued that officers did have probable cause to arrest for a charge of resisting arrest, which occurred in their presence.

"The commonwealth argues that because there was probable cause to arrest for resisting arrest, even though they did not arrest for that offense, the arrest was lawful," Ripps wrote in his approval of the motion to suppress. "The cases cited by the commonwealth do not support that position."

Upon the judge's decision, both the commonwealth and defendant moved to dismiss the case.

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