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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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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug possession case discussing whether evidence seized as a result of the police officers’ decision to “freeze” a home while the officers obtained a search warrant. The court ultimately determined that the officers were unable to identify any “specific information supporting an objectively reasonable belief that evidence will indeed be removed or destroyed.” Thus, the court held that the defendant’s motion to suppress should be granted.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were investigating a home after they received a tip that the house was involved in a prostitution ring. An undercover officer entered the home and pretended to be a customer. After being offered sex for money, the officers called in backup to arrest several people inside the house.

Evidently, the arresting officers noticed that other people were in the home, and decided to “freeze” the home, meaning to conduct a search to remove all occupants. In an upstairs bedroom, police found the defendant who was in possession of crack cocaine. The defendant was arrested and charged with possession of a class B substance.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug case discussing whether the search warrant obtained by police was valid. The case involved the use of a confidential informant who did not know the defendant and did not ever mention to officers that the defendant was involved in the sale of narcotics. However, the court upheld the search that was conducted after officers obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s apartment through the officers’ independent investigation.

The Facts of the Case

Police received numerous tips that a man was selling narcotics out of a gold sedan. Several of the tips indicated that the sedan had a strap holding the vehicle’s truck in place. One of the tips came from a confidential informant who told officers that he had purchased narcotics from a man in a gold vehicle who was accompanied by a woman. Police went to the location provided by the tipsters and witnessed the subject of their investigation leave a residence and enter a gold sedan with a strap holding the trunk in place. A woman accompanied the subject.

Police ran the vehicle’s information, and it came back as registered to the defendant’s mother. Police also discovered that there had been a domestic disturbance call made about ten months prior by the defendant against the subject. Police began to believe that the defendant was the woman seen with the subject although they had no proof of that belief. Police officers conducted an investigation and obtained a phone number they believed to be the defendants. When police called as asked for the defendant by name, she replied “speaking.”

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts violation of probation hearing that was premised on the defendant’s alleged possession of an unlicensed firearm. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the quantum of evidence necessary to sustain a violation of probation.

The Facts

The defendant was a juvenile who was placed on probation for an unarmed robbery. While on probation, the defendant was arrested for the possession of a firearm without a license. Evidently, police responded to a call for an instance of breaking and entering. Upon entering the residence, police found several teens in the attic. The defendant was sitting on a chair with a black jacket draped over the back of it.

The police officers put all the teens up against the wall after seeing what they believed to be a handgun protruding out of another teen’s jacket. After searching all the teenagers, police officers found a gun in the black jacket that was draped over the chair that the defendant was sitting in. Later in the evening, two of the teens in the attic told police that the black jacket belonged to the defendant. However, one of the other teens told police that it was his jacket.

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During jury selection in a Massachusetts criminal trial, both the prosecution and the defense are able to ask the court to strike potential jurors from the jury whom they do not believe could be fair. These strikes “for cause” are unlimited in number. However, both sides are also given a limited number of peremptory strikes, which can be used at the party’s discretion.

Decades ago, in a landmark case issued by the United States Supreme Court, the Court held that a criminal defendant has a constitutional right, under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, to ensure that members of his race are not excluded from the jury pool based solely on their race. Since then, Massachusetts criminal courts have implemented their own rules to deal with a prosecutor’s racially discriminatory use of their peremptory strikes during jury selection.

In a recent case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts discussed the analysis that must be conducted when a defendant raises this type of challenge. The facts of the case are not particularly relevant to the court’s discussion; however, the case involved an African-American man who was charged with homicide.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts criminal law case discussing whether a text message that was sent to the defendant’s phone while the phone was in police custody should be suppressed. Ultimately, the court concluded that the phone was lawfully seized after a search incident to the defendant’s arrest. Further, the court held that the manner in which the officer saw the text message did not constitute a “search.” Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

The Facts of the Case

A police officer observed what he believed to be a drug transaction being conducted in a grocery store parking lot. As the police officer approached the defendant, who was alleged to have been the seller, the defendant ran. Another police officer caught up to the defendant a short time later and arrested him. The officer found cash and a cell phone on the defendant, and a black bag containing crack cocaine nearby on the ground.

The police officer took custody of the defendant’s phone and took it back to the station. A short time later, while the defendant was being processed, the cell phone began to ring. The officer looked at the ringing phone and saw a text message notification on the main screen. The court did not disclose the contents of the message, but it was likely damaging to the defendant as the prosecution planned on entering it into evidence. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the text message, arguing that it was discovered as the result of an illegal search.

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