A decision by the state’s highest court has thrown out the conviction of a New York man on drug furnishing charges after police, acting on an anonymous tip, found almost 300 grams of cocaine inside his backpack when they stopped and searched him after he got off a bus in Augusta.

The decision from late September could impact how law enforcement agencies handle cases involving anonymous information.

In Timothy Barclift’s appeal of his conviction on charges of aggravated furnishing of cocaine in Augusta in 2021, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled an anonymous tip is not enough to justify stopping and questioning a person.

Barclift was released from prison after the high court’s ruling, and his lawyer said the court’s decision provides important guidance for police on how to handle anonymous tips, and the potential hazards of profiling people based on otherwise-legal activities.

“It’s an important decision because it provides guidance for how police are supposed to handle anonymous tips, which are more commonplace with the advent of more and more text/email/voicemail tiplines,” Barclift’s lawyer, Rory McNamara, wrote Monday in an email. “Also, the decision is critical of law enforcement profiles, which rely on a bunch of innocent/lawful/innocuous behaviours (e.g. riding a public bus, buying tickets in cash, making frequent trips, etc.).

“Maine law enforcement, according to some, had been maybe relying too heavily on profiles, which led to some allegations of racial profiling. This decision should help cut down on that practice.”


Danna Hayes, a spokesperson for the Office of the Maine Attorney General, said Barclift cannot be retried on the charges and the case against him has been dismissed. He was released from custody Sept. 28, the day after the high court’s ruling.

Hayes said the attorney general’s office could not comment further about the case.

Barclift, 47, who is Black, was found guilty of furnishing drugs in Augusta in 2021 and sentenced to five years and 182 days in prison, with all but three years of that suspended, and two years probation.

Barclift appealed his case, and McNamara argued the case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court to hear the appeal.

Law enforcement officers stopped Barclift on Jan. 22, 2020, after they received two anonymous tips that were so similar to each other that officials believed they had come from the same, unidentified person.

That anonymous person told police Barclift, a rap artist known as DownLeezy, traveled often to Maine, had dealt drugs here in the past and paid for his bus tickets in cash, according to court records.


The tipster also told police Barclift bought his bus tickets under another name, although police later discovered Barclift had used his real name when buying tickets for his bus trip to Maine in 2021, when he was arrested.

The anonymous tips, which were written, came through online reporting systems similar to email. They were sent Jan. 9 and 10, 2020, to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and Augusta Police Department.

Police confirmed Barclift’s travel plans — and that he had made the trip to Maine frequently — through an employee of Concord Coach Lines Inc., formerly known as Concord Trailways.

Based on that information, officers from MDEA, Maine State Police and the Augusta Police Department waited for Barclift’s bus and stopped him after he exited the bus and was getting into an SUV at the bus stop in North Augusta.

Following a sniff by a state police narcotics-detection dog, officers found what was later confirmed to be 297 grams of cocaine inside a backpack Barclift had brought with him.

Justices on the high court ruled the anonymous tip and information provided by the bus company worker were not enough to establish the reliability of the information and, thus, failed to establish an objectively reasonable, articulable suspicion sufficient to justify stopping and questioning Barclift.


“What is lacking is evidence that the police were able to confirm the anonymous tipster’s assertion of illegality by (1) corroborating a prediction of Barclift’s actions that was sufficiently specific and detailed to indicate inside knowledge of a plan to commit a crime or (2) independently obtaining reliable information, through their own direct observation or from known reliable sources, corroborating the tipster’s assertion of illegality,” the justices’ opinion reads.

“The information that the police obtained in attempting to corroborate the anonymous tip was not enough to indicate that. Because the stop of Barclift that led to his conviction lacked a constitutional basis, we vacate the judgement.”

The judge at Barclift’s initial trial denied a motion to suppress evidence collected by police after stopping Barclift and later searching his bag.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court  ruled 5-1 that evidence should have been suppressed, with Justice Joseph Jabar dissenting.

In his dissent, Jabar wrote that behaviors the courts have decided are indicative of a drug courier profile include paying for tickets with cash, frequent travel to a source city and an anonymous prediction of a person’s legal activities fitting the drug courier profile can be sufficient to generate reasonable suspicions of illegality, when the information is sufficiently detailed and confirmed to be accurate in its prediction of the person’s actions.

Jabar wrote that in Barclift’s case, the evidence of a drug courier profile, plus two anonymous tips that contained specific information about Barclift’s transportation of illegal drugs, were enough to establish reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop Barclift.

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