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Charges dropped against Hagerstown man in drug case

April 20, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- Charges including possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute were dismissed against a Hagerstown man during a suppression hearing in Washington County Circuit Court after questions were raised about the traffic stop that led to his arrest.

Circuit Judge John H. McDowell granted the motion to suppress by attorney Ben Thompson on behalf of his client, Michael Dwayne Sweeney, according to the circuit court clerk's office. After the motion was granted, all criminal charges were withdrawn, Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler said.

Sweeney, 30, of 127 Elm St., also was charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and driving without a license, according to the statement of charges. The charges stemmed from a 2 a.m. traffic stop on Virginia Avenue on Oct. 20, 2009, according to the statement of probable cause filed by Maryland State Police.

Trooper 1st Class Shane Bussard testified at the hearing that he ran the West Virginia license plate number on a Ford Focus, which indicated the plate belonged to a Ford Mustang.

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Thompson said Bussard transposed two numbers on the license plate, accounting for him mistakenly pulling over the car. Once that was realized, "the traffic stop should have stopped," because it was not based on probable cause, Thompson told McDowell.

Pauler said during the hearing that Bussard was acting in good faith despite the mistake.

"No officer can benefit from his own mistake, unless he was unaware of that mistake," Pauler said after the hearing. There was conflicting testimony on that issue, she said.

Bussard testified he could not recall whether Sweeney had given him the vehicle registration to confirm that the license plate matched the car he was driving, Pauler said after the hearing. Sweeney testified during the hearing that he had shown the registration to Bussard, Pauler said after the hearing.

Following the traffic stop, a search of the vehicle turned up 29 capsules of suspected heroin, the statement of probable cause said.

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