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$100K cocaine case dismissed


Court rulings gave prosecutors two choices: Go to trial with no evidence about the drug bust or drop the charges.

By Laurie Mason
Courier Times

Faced with the prospect of going into court without any evidence, testimony or witnesses, the Bucks County District Attorney's Office yesterday dropped all charges against a New York man accused of transporting $100,000 worth of cocaine through Bensalem in 2000.

The DA's decision came after two higher courts upheld a county judge's ruling to toss out evidence of the drugs, which were found hidden inside a car during a traffic stop. The evidence was ruled inadmissible because the driver didn't give police permission to search the vehicle.

Miqueas Acosta, 39, was arrested in June 2000 after police found a kilo of cocaine hidden in secret compartments inside his minivan, which had been pulled over on southbound Route 1 because of an expired inspection sticker.

Acosta was set to stand trial later that year, but at a pretrial hearing, county Judge Rea Boylan Thomas ruled the drugs were inadmissible in court. She said Acosta didn't voluntarily give police consent to search his vehicle.

Acosta, a native of the Dominican Republic, claimed that he was confused by the English-speaking officers' questions and felt pressured into letting them look inside his car.

The DA's office appealed Thomas' decision to state Superior Court and was denied last year. The state Supreme Court refused to take up the matter last month, affirming the lower courts' decisions.

Their appeals exhausted, prosecutors had the choice yesterday of going forward with Acosta's trial or dismissing the case. Had they taken it to trial, prosecutors wouldn't have been able to tell a jury about the drugs.

Deputy District Attorney John Benson confirmed yesterday that the charges were dropped but declined to comment further.

Acosta's attorney, Michael Parlow, said Acosta was "very happy" that he didn't have to stand trial. Parlow said Acosta has always maintained that he didn't know there were drugs in the van. He said Acosta was hired by an acquaintance to drive the vehicle from New York to Philadelphia.

According to Parlow, the case illustrates how important it is for people to know that they have a right to be treated fairly when they're pulled over by police.

"The issue of 'voluntariness' of consent is something that a lot of people don't think about," Parlow said. "I think the courts have made it clear that police need clear consent before they search a vehicle, and citizens have a right to refuse a search."

Reprinted with permission from Bucks County Courier Times


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