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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts sex trafficking case discussing whether the lower court could compel the defendant to enter a password so that the prosecution could execute a search warrant that was obtained for the defendant’s cell phone. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant could be compelled to enter the password and that it was not a violation of his right to be free from self-incrimination.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was arrested on suspicion of sex trafficking. When he was arrested, the defendant had two cellular phones with him. The prosecution’s evidence suggested that the defendant used the phone to communicate with several women. The prosecution successfully obtained a warrant to search the contents of the phone. However, the phone was encrypted, and the prosecution did not have the technology necessary to unlock the phone. Thus, the prosecution sought to compel the defendant to unlock the phone. The defendant claimed that requiring him to enter the password would require he incriminate himself.

The lower court denied the prosecution’s request to compel the defendant to enter the password, and the prosecution appealed.

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Last month, a Massachusetts appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug case describing the circumstances under which a strip search is appropriate. In this case, the court held that the strip search conducted by police was unsupported by probable cause, and violated the defendant’s constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches. Thus, the court granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the narcotics that were recovered as a result of the search.

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were in an unmarked car in a high-crime area conducting surveillance. During their surveillance, the officers noticed the defendant, who was standing on the sidewalk outside an apartment complex. Over the course of 20 minutes, the defendant went in and out of the house several times. At one point, an individual approached the defendant, and the two went around the corner for a few moments before returning. Police officers believed that the defendant was engaged in the sale of narcotics.

When another individual approached the defendant, police followed as the two men walked around the corner. One officer saw the two men standing face-to-face, and believed he was witnessing a drug transaction. The officers stopped the other man, searched him, and found a bag containing about $20 worth of cocaine. Police then patted the defendant down, finding $20, but no narcotics. Police arrested the defendant, transported him to the police station and booked him. Because the officer believed that it was common for street-level drug dealers to conceal narcotics in their groin area, the officers instructed the defendant to undress. Once the defendant was completely naked, the officers saw a red bandana, and inside the bandana were seven packets of cocaine.

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Judges have a variety of roles in a Massachusetts criminal trial. One of the primary functions of a judge is to decide what evidence is admissible throughout the trial. Often, these issues are litigated before the trial begins in a motion in limine. However, it is also common for judges to make spur-of-the-moment decisions regarding the admissibility of evidence during a trial.

At the conclusion of the evidence, a judge is responsible for instructing the jury on the applicable law. The jury’s role is to consider the evidence and take into account the instructions provided by the judge, ultimately coming to a conclusion regarding whether the prosecution has proven that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judges are human, and as a result, will frequently make mistakes during a trial. It is crucial for a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney to pay close attention to a judge’s rulings during a trial because these errors can be the basis of an appeal. However, not every error a judge makes during a trial will result in the reversal of a guilty verdict.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts car theft case discussing whether the police had probable cause to arrest the defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officers had probable cause to believe that the car was stolen and that the defendant was in possession of the car, but not that the defendant knew the car was stolen. Thus, the court suppressed the post-arrest statements made by the defendant, because his arrest was illegal.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was seen leaning next to a car. As police drove by, they ran the car’s plates and determined that the vehicle was stolen. The police observed the defendant open the car door, throw something in, and then close the door. The defendant eventually got into the car through the passenger’s side door and sat down in the front passenger seat. There was no one else in the car.

Based on their observations, the police arrested the defendant. After his arrest, the defendant admitted to knowing that the car was stolen. The defendant was charged with receipt of stolen property.

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The job of a Massachusetts prosecutor is to seek the truth, not merely to pursue a conviction at all costs. However, in reality, there are social and professional pressures placed upon prosecutors to obtain convictions, and it is not unheard of for prosecutors to turn a blind eye to evidence that would tend to exonerate a defendant. Thus, in the 1963 case Brady v. Maryland, the United States Supreme Court held that a prosecutor in a criminal case must disclose all exculpatory evidence in its possession to the defense.

Over time, the Brady rule has expanded to include evidence that is relevant to “guilt or punishment,” as well as evidence that is in the control of other closely aligned government entities. Indeed, Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 14 requires the disclosure of “any facts of an exculpatory nature.” However, determining exactly what is “exculpatory” can be difficult, especially if the defendant is not entitled to otherwise view the evidence.

One area that is frequently the subject of litigation is the personnel files of police officers. This evidence can be compelling if it shows that an officer involved in an arrest has been subject to disciplinary proceedings in the past. However, this evidence is not generally discoverable unless it is relevant. Thus, courts typically review the evidence in-camera, and then determine if it should be provided to the defense. A recent appellate decision in a Massachusetts gun case illustrates the difficulties defendants sometimes have in obtaining the personnel files of police officers.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts OUI case requiring the court to determine if the lower court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the statements he made to the state trooper that had arrested him. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trooper’s testimony was conflicting regarding whether the defendant was given his Miranda warnings and whether the defendant indicated that he understood the warnings. Thus, the court reversed the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was pulled over by a state trooper for suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OUI). After the defendant was arrested, he told the trooper that he had consumed “two small bottles of red wine” and that he rated his intoxication as a “two” on a scale of one to ten. The defendant filed a motion to suppress his statements, arguing that his statements were taken without having been provided Miranda warnings.

Evidently, on direct examination at the motion hearing, the trooper testified that he provided the defendant with Miranda warnings and that the defendant indicated that he had understood those warnings. However, on cross-examination, the trooper contradicted himself, explaining that the defendant never told him he understood the Miranda rights, that he never waived those rights, and that he never agreed to talk to the trooper about the alleged offense.

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Many Massachusetts DUI cases are based on breathalyzer test results. These tests, often given on the side of the road by police officers, have come under intense scrutiny across the country for being less than accurate.

Over the past several years, Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys have been litigating the admissibility of breathalyzer test results. While the arguments to exclude the test results are quite technical and complex, the results were attacked both in how they were obtained as well as how they were stored. Recently, a Massachusetts District Judge issued a landmark opinion excluding breathalyzer results in thousands of Massachusetts DUI cases.

According to a recent news report covering the judge’s decision, the issue began back in 2017 when he ruled that the testing results were reliable, but that the manner in which they were maintained was not reliable. In his 2017 ruling, the judge determined that the results could not be presumed to be reliable, requiring the prosecution present additional evidence to establish test results were reliable. The judge also ordered the Office of Alcohol Testing (OAT) to provide thousands of pages of data to defense attorneys.

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As a general rule, police officers must obtain a warrant to search someone’s home. However, over the years, courts have come up with several exceptions when police do not need to obtain a warrant to search a home. The most common exception police officers use to justify the immediate, warrantless search of a home is to claim that exigent circumstances warranted the search.

Under the exigent-circumstance exception, police can conduct a warrantless search of a home if they have reason to believe that there is not enough time to secure a search warrant. For example, police officers may cite exigent circumstances justify entry to prevent the destruction of evidence or potential harm to police or others. A recent state appellate decision limited police officers’ ability to rely on exigencies that were reasonably foreseeable results of their own actions.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police received a call for an armed burglary and, after speaking with the homeowner, identified the defendant as a suspect. However, because the identification was made at the end of the investigating police officer’s shift, the officer left the search warrant application in the “next day” bin.

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Over the course of the last few years, reports of police officers who have abused their authority or used excessive force have skyrocketed. In large part, this increase is due to the prevalence of social media in today’s society as well as the fact that most people have a cell phone that contains a camera. But this raises the question of whether it is legal to record police officers.

Openly recording police officers has long been a protected right, so long as doing so does not interfere with an officer’s ability to carry out their official duties. However, under the Massachusetts wiretapping statute, the secret recording of police officers has been prohibited until recently when a federal judge issued a ruling protecting citizens’ right to record police secretly.

Massachusetts Judge Holds First Amendment Protects Those Who Secretly Record Police Officers

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court handed down an important decision upholding a citizen’s right to secretly record law enforcement officials. The decision was based on the citizens’ rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to a news report covering the recent opinion, the court issued the opinion after consolidating two cases. The first case involved two Boston activists who regularly openly recorded police interactions with the public.

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As a general matter, police officers must be justified in their approach and questioning of a person. This includes both pedestrian stops as well as motor vehicle stops. Typically, an officer must be able to present articulable facts supporting the officer’s reasonable suspicion that the person who was stopped had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime.

Massachusetts courts have held, however, that when an officer is not investigating a crime but instead checking in on the wellbeing of a person (or the occupants of a vehicle) the questioning does not need to be supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion. This is known as the community-caretaking exception. A few years ago, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug possession case discussing the community-caretaking exception. The case also provides an in-depth discussion of Massachusetts law as it pertains to drug-sniffing dogs.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant ran out of gas while driving on Route 140. A state trooper saw the defendant’s vehicle move into the breakdown lane with the hazard lights flashing so the trooper pulled behind it, engaging the cruiser’s blue emergency lights. The defendant exited his vehicle, explained he was out of gas, and asked what he should do. The defendant then called and asked a friend to bring him some gas.

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