Drug case bound over to Circuit Court
The case of an Elkins woman who allegedly was carrying illegal drugs and a loaded handgun in her vehicle when she went through a DUI checkpoint was bound over Wednesday to Randolph County Circuit Court.
Chief Magistrate Ben Shepler found probable cause in the case of Melissa Dawn Summerfield, 20, who was charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, a felony, and possession of a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor, during a West Virginia State Police DUI checkpoint that took place along U.S. 219 Nov. 30 in Randolph County.
Shepler also denied a bond modification motion made by Summerfield’s attorney, Christopher Cooper, on Wednesday. Summerfield’s bond is set at $75,000 cash only, and she has been incarcerated in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail since Dec. 1.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Trooper 1st Class J.R. Wince with the Elkins detachment of the West Virginia State Police testified that when he stopped Summerfield at the DUI checkpoint, she appeared to be nervous and told him she’d snorted a Percocet earlier in the evening. Wince subsequently administered three sobriety tests, all of which Summerfield passed.
But when Wince called for the assistance of WVSP K-9 handler Cpl. G.S. DeWeese and K-9 Officer Servo, the dog gave a positive indication that drugs were present somewhere in the rear passenger area of the vehicle. Wince said he found a shoebox containing a vacuum-sealed pack of what he believed to be 290 grams of marijuana; he said he additionally found a loaded 9 mm handgun under the passenger seat.
Wince also testified that he unearthed 7.3 grams of what he believed to be methamphetamine and about 2 grams a substance he identified as MDMA, or ecstasy, in Summerfield’s vehicle.
Assistant Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Lori Gray asked Wince if the amount of drugs he allegedly discovered in Summerfield’s car was in excess of what one person would use for personal use.
“She’s calling for a judgment,” he said. “There’s been no foundation laid, and what’s personal use for one person is not the same as what’s personal use for another person.”
Shepler overruled the objection, and Wince said he did, in fact, believe the amount of marijuana allegedly found in Summerfield’s car was more than an amount one person would typically use.
“Additionally, there were bags and scales, which is what led me to the conclusion that the intent was to redistribute,” Wince said.
“The substance you found in the vacuum-sealed pack … how many leaves did it have?” Cooper asked.
Wince said he wasn’t sure because the substance was crunched into tiny pieces. He told Cooper he had not performed field tests on any of the substances.
“My client passed all three sobriety tests, and my understanding is that since that was the case, she’s to be let go,” Cooper said.
“Yes, but not so matter-of-factly,” Wince replied. “There’s case law that says we have time to issue citations or written warnings, and in that amount of time, the K-9 (officer) came and gave a positive indication.”
In his closing argument, Cooper said he didn’t believe the arrest was legal, given that his client had passed three sobriety tests.
“He did no field tests, which he admitted wasn’t his practice,” Cooper said of Wince. “For all we know, my client could have had a well-packaged container of oregano.”
In her rebuttal, Gray said a preliminary hearing was not the proper place for a judge to rule on whether evidence had been obtained legally.
“It requires a full evidentiary hearing, which this court does not have the authority to do,” she said.
Shepler said it was “very important” to him to determine whether an arrest was lawful, and he was satisfied that in Summerfield’s case, it was lawful.
“Probable cause has been found,” the magistrate said. “I don’t believe that Miss Summerfield was driving around with oregano and flour in baggies along with guns and scales.
“In my court, when you mix firearms and drugs,” Shepler continued, “there’s a threat to public safety. This court will not modify bond.”
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.