The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today a woman who swallowed what appeared to be a bag of heroin in full view of a police officer shouldn't have been charged with "misleading a police officer" because he knew exactly where the bag was.
Police charged Josefa Tejeda with heroin possession and with misleading police on Oct. 8, 2014, alleging that on watching a man get arrested for possession of "a small plastic bag of a light brown powdery substance" at Roxbury and Washington streets in Dudley Square, she noticed he had dropped it, then rushed over, picked up the bag and swallowed it.
A Roxbury District Court judge dismissed the misleading-police charge; the Suffolk County District Attorney's office then appealed.
At issue for the state's highest court is the meaning of "mislead" under state law.
The justices said that while that law does not specifically define "mislead," they would use both federal evidence-tampering rules and a dictionary definition, and that those led them to the conclusion Tejeda did not mislead police
The court set out two requirements for trying somebody on the charge: One would be an attempt to make a "false statement," and the other would be that that statement then sent police off on what the ruling called "a wild goose chase."
The court allowed that swallowing the bag could be seen as an effort to interfere with police, a sort of non-verbal "false statement."
But, the court continued, because the woman swallowed the bag as police watched, she failed to send them off on a wild goose chase:
[A]lthough the defendant's swallowing of the plastic bag in full view of a police officer may have been an attempt to keep potential evidence away from the officer, it was not an attempt to create a false impression within that officer. This is so because she did not attempt to, nor did she, deceive the officer as to where the bag went. Second, the defendant's conduct did not lead officers astray or send them on a "wild goose chase." Paquette, 475 Mass. at 800. The officers knew exactly where to find the plastic bag if they were so inclined.