While the efforts of the authorities to address illegal drug activity may be considered necessary for maintaining law and order, a Gloucester County case is an example of an effort gone awry. A Wenonah resident reportedly received a settlement of $35,000 after filing suit against the involved police department. The incident at issue occurred in November 2011 as the man carried a video camera on his way to Gloucester County College.
As the man was stopped, he was informed that he looked suspicious because of the camera. Recent burglaries in the surrounding community were also reported as a reason for concern. However, a skirmish ensued because the man refused to stop his video recording. Officials searched him, finding brown wax paper with cracker crumbs. The police indicated that they suspected that the substance was crack cocaine, and they detained the man on criminal charges for drug possession. Later, the man was informed that the substance was actually a piece of a cracker. Charges were then changed to obstruction of administering the law. The man was later found not guilty on this charge.
In this situation, the police department did not admit to any wrongdoing while agreeing to the settlement. An individual detained on unusual terms in a different situation might worry about how to confront suspicious charges or evidence. In dealing with criminal charges, a defendant might wonder about how to deal with inaccuracy and errors on the part of officials.
It may be helpful to discuss a questionable situation with a criminal defense lawyer to ensure that the events leading to one's detention are evaluated for issues such as illegal search and seizure, lack of a warrant, or failure to correctly administer Miranda warnings. In some cases, a lawyer may be able to assist in getting some or all charges dismissed due to such errors.
Source: NJ.com, "Man gets $35K after cops thought his cracker crumbs were crack", Jeff Goldman, June 4, 2015