“Mister Alvarez is a man who is hopelessly addicted to methamphetamine,” his defense attorney told a judge during a twenty minute hearing on Monday, July 16, 2018. Defender Lacey Golling asserted that the drugs Alvarez had with him were for his own use, and not intended for sales.
The public defender said Sergio Sanchez Alvarez, 41, has been arrested 19 times for drug possession in San Diego County and was on probation at the time of his most recent arrest on April 20, 2018.
The prosecutor asserts that Alvarez recently had in his possession seven different baggies of crystal meth, in different weights or amounts, which is evidence that he was engaged in sales.
Police officer Stephen Brown said it was about 11 o’clock one night last March when he observed Alvarez drive into the parking lot at the Mt Vernon Inn in Escondido. The officer said he observed people whom he knew “from prior drug contacts” approach Alvarez in his vehicle. Subsequently, officer Brown found seven individually wrapped packages or “baggies” under the driver’s seat. He said all the baggies were wrapped up in a paper towel. The offficer said each baggie contained a clear, crystalized substance which tested to be methamphetamine, and that the total weight of all bags was 5.78 grams.
Officer Brown said he looked at the suspect’s cell phone and “There was text messages that indicated he was engaged in narcotic sales.” Those texts included: “Can you do seven? Where are you? Can you come to me?”
Escondido police detective Shauna Grisler testified that she is a special investigator for narcotics and ICE, and is fluent in Spanish. She said over her career she has spoken to hundreds of addicts and dozens of drug dealers and that she understands “drug slang.”
Det. Grisler said she found drug-sale-messages in Alvarez’ cell phone, sent using the Facebook Messenger app. She said these were in Spanish, to and from Alvarez. A message that referred to “a quarter” meant a quarter ounce and other messages asked for “prices for certain things” and “can you spot me in product,” according to the detective, who said there were “at least ten relevant messages.”
Grisler said that 5.87 grams is higher than the average user would have on his person, and that each baggie contained a useable amount of meth. For the district attorney’s office, .05 gram is considered a useable amount, the detective said.
Defense attorney Lacey Golling told the judge that no “pay-and-owe sheets,” nor scales, nor cash were found — and that this supported her conclusion that Alvarez had meth simply for his own use.
Alvarez was assisted by a Spanish speaking interpreter in court, and he frowned continuously throughout his hearing.
Honorable Judge David J. Danielsen ordered Alvarez to answer two felony charges, possession of drugs for sale and transport of drugs for sale. Alvarez pleaded not guilty, is currently held in lieu of $32,000 bail, and is next due in court August 13 to set a date for trial.