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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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pinsAt a Massachusetts juvenile crime trial, a teenager was adjudicated delinquent for assault and illegal possession of a dangerous weapon at school. He claimed on appeal that there wasn’t enough evidence for the judge to adjudicate delinquency on the dangerous weapon charge, among other things.

The teenager was in high school. A teacher saw he’d taped pins to his fingers, and some were on his backpack. They were safety pins without hooks and with jagged edges. When the teacher asked what was on his fingers, he answered he was Edward Scissorhands. He gave her the pins at her request.

Under MGL c. 269 section 10(j), you can be convicted for carrying a firearm or other dangerous weapon on your person in school. The teenager argued that there wasn’t enough evidence that the pins should be considered a dangerous weapon. The law includes as dangerous weapons objects that are made and designed to cause great bodily injury or death or to assault or defend. In this case, there was no argument that the pins on the boy’s fingers were dangerous per se. To sustain the adjudication of delinquency, there had to be a finding that the pins were dangerous as he used them.

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handcuffsUnder Instruction § 6.700 of the Criminal Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court, the Commonwealth needs to establish the following to show a criminal threat:  (1) the defendant stated an intention to harm someone or someone’s property presently or in the future, (2) the defendant intended this threat to be conveyed to a specific person, (3) the injury that was threatened would be a crime if actually committed, and (4) the defendant made this threat in a situation that could have reasonably caused the hearer to fear the defendant had both the intent and the ability to go through with the threat.

In a recent Massachusetts criminal threatening case, a man was charged with one count of threatening to perpetrate a crime under M.G.L. c. 275. section 2. The case arose when the defendant was arrested for not paying child support. He was taken out of the courtroom and moved to a lock-up area. While intake was taking place, he got angry and said that if this ruined his life, he would come back there with a machine gun. The intake was completed, and a different officer walked him to his cell. While being taken, he said that if this ruined his life, he would come back with a vengeance.

He was put in a cell and later moved to a house of correction. He moved to dismiss the complaint that he’d made a threat. This motion was granted. The Commonwealth appealed.

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shadowsIn a recent Massachusetts assault case, the defendant was convicted of resisting arrest and assault and battery on a cop. The problems arose when two policemen were dispatched to his house for a 911 hang-up call. When the policemen got there, one thought he heard somebody talking. Through a window, the policeman saw the defendant’s co-defendant and heard a woman ask angrily why he hit her. The co-defendant moved to the back of the house, and the officer went in that direction. He heard a woman crying and a man yelling, trying to get her to be quiet.

The officer came back to the front of the house, where he found the other officer inside, talking to a woman who lived at the house. The co-defendant was clearly drunk and agitated and came up to the officers from the back of the house. He kept yelling at them and insisted they needed a warrant to be in the home.

The officers told him they’d gotten a 911 call and had to check on everyone. The co-defendant and defendant began yelling and stopped the officers from checking on the woman in the back of the house. The defendant told them they couldn’t go back. The officer smelled alcohol on both his breath and his co-defendant’s breath. The co-defendant grabbed one of the officers, and both he and the defendant pushed the cops. The defendant put his hands on one of the officers, who called to get backup. The officers told the defendant and co-defendant they were under arrest, but they didn’t follow orders.

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eyeIn a recent Massachusetts appellate decision, the defendant was convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon on a pregnant person, as well as ordinary assault and battery on a pregnant woman and a violation of an abuse prevention order. He argued on appeal that the prosecutor’s misstatements warranted granting a new trial.

This Massachusetts assault case arose when the defendant began dating the victim, who was pregnant by about three or four months. They argued while staying at a friend’s. The victim tried to stop the conversation, and in response, the defendant punched her face. He stole her handbag, including the money and a cell phone chip that were in it.

Later, while they were staying at a hotel with another couple, the defendant left. When he got back, he found her showering and accused her of being unfaithful. He tried to argue with her and closed the bathroom door. The victim asked him to open the door. He opened it and punched her in the face, and he pinned her to the wall. Later, he let her leave the bathroom. Security was called, and they came and took him out of the room.

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