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Resisting Arrest in Massachusetts

shopping centerIn Commonwealth v. Hill, the defendant was convicted of resisting arrest in violation of G. L. c. 268, § 32B, larceny in violation of G. L. c. 266, § 30(1), and assault and battery on a police officer. The case arose when a Sears & Roebuck Company loss prevention officer was monitoring the sales floor of the department store and spotted the defendant leaving the store with certain clothing items that were still tagged, not in bags, and without a receipt.

The jury could have found the following facts. William Punch, a loss prevention officer employed by Sears & Roebuck Company in Dedham, was watching the sales floor of the department store when he noticed the defendant leaving with multiple un-bagged clothing items that still had tags. He called the loss prevention office, which told him none of these things had been paid for. He followed the defendant as he left the store and called the police from his cell phone as he continued to follow the defendant.

The police responded. An officer saw the defendant run down the street without the clothes. The defendant fled into the back yard of a nearby residence. A little bit later, the police caught the defendant where he had hidden behind a tractor trailer at the mall.

After he was convicted, he appealed, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to convict him of larceny or resisting arrest, and hearsay evidence had been erroneously admitted.

The appellate court explained that to secure a larceny conviction, the prosecutor had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant illegally carried away another person’s property, specifically intending to permanently deprive that person of the property. In this case, the defendant argued that the Commonwealth hadn’t proven the property was somebody else’s property. The court reasoned that there was enough evidence to establish the clothes were somebody else’s property and that evidence of flight could be admitted to establish consciousness of guilt, and that consciousness added together with other evidence could establish the defendant was guilty.

Once the police responded, the defendant didn’t have the clothing in his possession, which was inconsistent with any claim of ownership, such that the jury could conclude the clothes were someone else’s property. The Commonwealth needed to prove he knew he was being arrested when he resisted. The defendant argued there was not enough evidence to establish he was resisting arrest because he didn’t know the officers planned to arrest him. He claimed that fleeing from the officer didn’t establish his knowledge.

In order to know whether someone understood he or she was under arrest, the court is required to consider what a reasonable person innocent of any crime would have thought in the defendant’s shoes. The defendant had stolen goods and was pursued by a loss prevention officer when a uniformed police officer followed in a marked cruiser. He hid and fought with uniformed officers when they tried to handcuff him. The court concluded that a reasonable person would have known he was under arrest.

The loss prevention officer had testified that he’d called the loss prevention office to find out whether the defendant had paid for clothes and was told that none of the merchandise he described was paid for. The defendant argued that what the office told the loss prevention officer was hearsay. The appellate court agreed it was an error to admit this testimony, but it determined that its admission wasn’t prejudicial.

The judgment was affirmed.

If you are charged with a crime related to interfering with a police investigation or a theft crime in Massachusetts, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Posts:

Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015

Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014