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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts gun case requiring the court determine if a firearm that was recovered from the defendant after he was illegally stopped by police should be suppressed. The court found that the defendant’s act of punching the police officer after the illegal search had begun was an intervening criminal act justifying the defendant’s arrest and the officers’ subsequent search. Thus, the lower court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress was affirmed.

HandgunThe Facts of the Case

Several police officers were in an unmarked car when they observed what they believed to be a drug transaction. The officers circled back to see if they could confirm their suspicions, but by the time they returned to where the transaction had occurred the parties had left.

Shortly after, the officers came across a group of several men, one of whom was the defendant. Another one of the men was a known gang member. Initially, the officers thought that they may have been involved in the drug transaction, but upon approaching, they realized that not to be the case. Nevertheless, the officers exited their car and frisked members of the group, including the defendant. Nothing was recovered.

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Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion in a Fourth Amendment privacy case that will have a major effect on Massachusetts criminal investigations. The court’s holding was that police are required to obtain a warrant before they retrieve cell-phone tracking data from a cellular phone provider.

Cell PhoneThe Facts of the Case

The case related to a police investigation of a robbery that allegedly involved several people. The police made four arrests, and one of those men told police about several others who were also involved in the robbery. The man gave police the phone numbers of several of the alleged conspirators, including the defendant.

Police took the defendant’s cell phone number, and filed a request under the Stored Communications Act to obtain his cell phone records. That Act allows for cell providers to hand over customer information when the government can show that there is a “reasonable belief” that it is “relevant and material” to an ongoing investigation. Chief among the information sought was historical location data of where the defendant’s cell phone had been over the past 127 days. The information was given to police, and it provided them with 12,898 location points, all of which were around where the alleged robbery occurred.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts sex crime case, finding that the jury’s verdict was based on insufficient evidence. The court determined that a hug given to the complainant by the defendant was not “indecent” in nature, and thus, the Commonwealth’s evidence was insufficient to support the indecent assault charge.

Barbed WireThe Facts of the Case

The complainant was a 13-year-old girl who was interning at an aviation company. One day, the defendant, a 60-year-old man, approached the complainant, whom he had previously met at the airport, and told her he would like to get her a gift for her upcoming birthday. He also told her that he would like to give her a hug in another room. The complainant went into the hallway and waited, but she returned to work a few minutes later when the defendant never showed up. Later, the complainant ran into the defendant and offered him a hug.

A little later that day, the defendant asked if the complainant wanted another hug. This time, the defendant led the complainant into a private room, gave her a hug, and kissed her on the cheek. The complainant testified that she was not initially alarmed because it seemed like a common greeting for someone of “European descent.”

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug trafficking case discussing whether the evidence seized by the police was done so in violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights. Specifically, the court had to determine if the defendants should have been provided with Miranda warnings prior to being asked questions by police. Ultimately, the court concluded that, although the defendants were not free to leave, they were not “in custody” for the purposes of the Miranda analysis.

InterrogationThe Facts of the Case

A police officer was walking into a store when he heard one of the defendants on the phone. The officer believed that the defendant was arranging a narcotics transaction, and he began to follow the defendant. The defendant ultimately met up with another man, and the two engaged in a transaction of unknown objects. This confirmed the officer’s suspicions, and he called back-up.

The officers approached the two defendants and separated them immediately. One of the officers claimed to have given one of the defendants some version of the Miranda warnings, but the officer was unable to recall exactly what was stated to the defendant. The other defendant was not read any of his Miranda rights.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts robbery case discussing when a police officer can stop someone against their will and search them. The court ultimately determined that the officer who stopped the defendant possessed the requisite reasonable suspicion to conduct a stop-and-frisk, and thus the defendant’s motion to suppress was denied.

Open DoorThe Facts of the Case

Four students of Northeastern University were allegedly robbed at gunpoint. The students gave police a description of their alleged assailants. Specifically, the description given by one of the victims was that they were robbed by three men. The man with the gun was reported to be a Black man with a black hoodie and blue jeans, the second man was a heavyset Hispanic man wearing a black hoodie and a Colorado Rockies hat, and the third man was either Black or Hispanic, but the victim could not recall the man’s clothing.

Police responded to the scene, and, within a minute or so, police noticed three men walking out of a nearby home matching the description given by the victim. As the police officer approached the men, they hurriedly went back into the house. The police officer walked up to the house and knocked on the door. The mother of one of the men answered and let the officer inside.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug trafficking case requiring the court to determine if a police officer’s traffic stop that ultimately led to the discovery of narcotics was longer than necessary, and thus was conducted in violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights. Ultimately, the court determined that the arresting officer exceeded his authority when he continued to ask questions of the defendants after they provided information that would have been sufficient to allow the officer to verify their identities.

Police CarThe Facts of the Case

The defendants were an African-American man and woman, both of whom were passengers in a car driven by a white female. As the three were traveling along the highway, a police officer noticed that the vehicle’s rear tail light was out. The officer pulled the vehicle over.

As the officer approached, he began to question the driver about the identity of the passengers. The driver identified the passengers as two friends, “J” and “T.” The officer noticed that the driver’s voice was trembling, and she appeared nervous, and also the two defendants were not wearing seatbelts.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts assault case brought against a student who was involved in a serious fight resulting in the victim sustaining several broken bones. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a statement made by the defendant to a police officer was admissible when it was made after the officer made assurances that the defendant’s cooperation would likely result in his not being charged with a felony. Ultimately, the court concluded that under the totality of the circumstances, the police officer’s untrue statement rendered the defendant’s statement involuntary.

Police CarThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was involved in a fight with a fellow student at a house party. After the fight, the complaining witness was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. He later spoke to police, telling them what happened but stating that he could not identify who it was who attacked him.

The police conducted an investigation and obtained some evidence tying the defendant to the house party. The assigned investigator contacted a less senior officer and asked him to call the defendant to see what he knew. The detective told the officer that he believed another person was responsible for the assault, but the defendant was involved, and if the defendant cooperated, he would potentially be charged with a less serious crime.

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Over the years, police have tried a number of different investigative tactics to uncover illegal activities and arrest those they believe to be engaged in such activities. In general, the United States and Massachusetts constitutions outline the protections individuals have from intrusive, unfair, or coercive police conduct, and courts will apply these constitutional principles to enforce the rights of individuals when necessary. More often than not, this results in the exclusion of evidence obtained illegally through a motion to suppress.

Dropping a DimeOne way that police try to uncover illegal narcotic activity is through the use of confidential informants. A confidential informant is often a citizen with no law enforcement experience who agrees to cooperate with the police. Often, these individuals have some kind of “inside” knowledge through their relationship with those who are the target of the police investigation.

The use of confidential informants, however, presents major concerns because an informant’s tip can lead to the issuance of a warrant, or it may be the basis for an arrest or search. That being the case, Massachusetts courts only allow police to act on certain kinds of tips from confidential informants. A recent case illustrates how courts analyze cases involving confidential informants.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug possession case requiring the court to determine if the evidence presented by the prosecution was sufficient to sustain the defendant’s conviction. Ultimately, the court determined that there was sufficient evidence to find that the plaintiff constructively possessed the drugs.

HandcuffsThe Facts of the Case

In January 2015, the defendant’s apartment was searched by police who had a warrant. The police were looking for the defendant’s boyfriend, and when the police located heroin in the defendant’s apartment, they arrested her boyfriend. One of the arresting officers warned the defendant to stay away from the boyfriend.

The next month, police again searched the defendant’s apartment, and again, her boyfriend was present. At the time the police searched the apartment, the defendant was not home. The police asked the defendant’s boyfriend if there were any drugs in the apartment, and he told them that there was some heroin under the dresser in the defendant’s room and that the drugs were his.

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bedroom tableIn a recent Massachusetts appellate case, a trial court judge allowed a criminal defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that had been seized by police executing a search warrant after first making two warrantless searches of the defendant’s apartment.

The case arose when police received a report that there was a smell like drugs coming from the defendant’s apartment. Later, they got another complaint from a neighbor describing a skunky and a minty smell and claiming she could see a bright light inside. Two days later, detectives went to the apartment and met with the neighbor. Nobody answered the defendant’s apartment door. The detectives weren’t able to see inside, but they could smell chemicals from beneath a running air conditioner.

A complaining neighbor told the detectives that two people, a boyfriend and girlfriend, lived in the apartment, and they usually left together in the morning. On that morning, the neighbor had spotted the defendant leaving alone. The detectives got the girlfriend’s phone number but weren’t able to get in contact with her. They went into the apartment to look for her. The building’s owner’s son took them through the basement, where the smell got stronger. When nobody responded to the detectives identifying themselves, they went in.

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