Texas v. Mazuca: The Agony of Ecstasy in Santa Ana
Earlier this year, two Canadian men were arrested for selling ecstasy in Santa Ana, resulting in a string of federal charges.
While those two await trial, a case out of Texas, Texas v. Mazuca, addressed a motion to suppress, based on an illegal stop, that ultimately resulted in an arrest for ecstasy possession.
First, however, Trial Attorney Houman Fakhimi can explain a little more about what ecstasy is and what the consequences are for possession and sale.
Ecstasy has been around for some time (1914) and earned a reputation as a well-known club drug in the 1970s and early 1980s, though it wasn't deemed illegal until 1985. It's similar to amphetamines and hallucinogens, and it's often referred to as "the love drug." It was first widely available in the urban gay nightlife scene and underground raves, but has seeped its way into suburbia.
In California, rules regulating ecstasy are found in Health and Safety Code 1137 HS.
A misdemeanor conviction for possession of this drug can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If you're found to be selling it or possessing it for the purpose of sale, you're risking up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine (possibly more depending on the circumstances of the case).
So all of this brings us to Texas v. Mazuca. Although this case occurred in Texas, the main issue - illegal search and seizure - is certainly relevant here.
In 2008, defendant pulled his vehicle into the parking lot of a retail store around 10:30 p.m. in El Paso, Texas. An officer spotted this vehicle and indicated that the tail lights were defective. He said it appeared the brake lights showed a white, rather than red, light. The officer had not other reason to stop the vehicle, as he had no indication that any other crime had been committed, other than this minor traffic infraction.
Police stopped the car, and the officers requested their licenses to check for warrants. Indeed, the individual had two outstanding warrants, which it was confirmed were active.
The defendant was taken into custody, and it was at that time that the officer found the ecstasy pills, as well as some marijuana.
He was arrested on multiple drug charges.
Later, however, the issue came up about whether the initial stop had been legal. Several years earlier, the owner of the vehicle said he had in fact had his rear tail lights altered to include a few clear rear lights, but they still had the red lights in the middle. The owner of the vehicle had never before gotten a ticket, and the car had always passed state inspections. The defense produced proof that the vehicle did in fact have red tail lights, contrary to the officer's statements.
The defense subsequently filed a motion to suppress the evidence and testimony brought forth by that officer, saying that obviously the officer's statements and sworn testimony had been proven faulty.
The court actually did side with the defense in this case, indicating that the officer's testimony that the lights were white, rather than red, was not credible.
Given that there was no other reason for the stop, and the fact that the defendant was not read his Miranda rights and that the defendant did not offer any information to the officers upon his arrest (a key point), which means that everything found thereafter could not be admitted into evidence.
In essence, the prosecution's case was crushed.
What this shows is that having a sharp criminal defense attorney by your side can make all the difference in your case.
The case was appealed, and the appellate court's ruling has just been released. The appellate court has upheld the lower court's ruling.
Contact Houman Fakhimi defense attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime. Protecting your rights and setting up an aggressive defense at the beginning stages is critical in defending against criminal charges.