PHILIPSBURG–The Court of First Instance on Wednesday acquitted two men of counterfeiting because their arrest was considered illegal.
F.F.F.A. (35) and A.L.L. (31) were stopped by the police during traffic controls on March 13, 2017. The two, who were riding together on a scooter, were held because L. was not wearing a helmet.
As they were stopped in Cay Bay, an area known by the police as rife with drug dealers, A. and L. were both searched for drugs. No drugs were uncovered, but both men were found in possession of counterfeit banknotes of different denominations but with identical serial numbers.
Each told a different story about the money’s origin. A. said he had received US $970 from a man to whom he had sold a second-hand computer. L., who was found in possession of $1,240 in counterfeit money, told the police he had been paid for car repairs. Both claimed they did not know the money was fake. A. told the Court that he had purchased groceries for $30 prior to his arrest and had not encountered any problems.
“I’m not buying your story,” the Prosecutor said in response to the suspect’s statement, saying that it was all too coincidental that two men were found in possession of fake money at the same time.
The Prosecutor said this concerned a serious crime, as counterfeiting has a serious impact on St. Maarten’s small economy.
For counterfeiting and possession of a knuckleduster the Prosecutor called for 60 hours community service for A.
L., who was tried in absentia, was also charged with theft from a car. For this crime, committed November 3, 2016, and for counterfeiting, the Prosecutor called on the Court to sentence him to 80 hours of community service.
Attorney-at-law Safira Ibrahim successfully appealed to the Court to consider A.’s arrest illegal, as he had been held for a traffic violation and was searched in connection with the National Drug Ordinance. This rendered her client’s arrest illegal and, therefore, the lawyer requested her client’s acquittal.
As the defendants had not given permission for a search, which was found to be illegal, the evidence of counterfeiting was obtained illegally, the Court reasoned.
“People may not be searched just like that, also in areas in which the police know that drug dealers are active,” the Judge said in his verdict.
The possession of a knuckleduster was found proven, for which A. was sentenced to payment of a NAf. 50 fine, or one day in prison in case of non-compliance.
L. was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, or 20 days in prison in case he fails to perform the mandatory duties.
The counterfeit banknotes and the knuckleduster were confiscated and will be destroyed.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/74437-2-acquitted-of-counterfeiting