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Evidence Obtained Extraterritorially in Massachusetts

emergency lightIn a recent Massachusetts theft decision, the court considered a motion to suppress. The case arose when a sergeant of the police department joined other officers in surveilling a car that was the subject of an investigation related to multiple breaking and entering crimes. The police department of another neighboring town had asked for assistance to see whether the car would lead the cops to evidence related to the breaking and entering crimes.

The police cars were unmarked and changed places to avoid being detected in the relevant communities. One officer saw the car at issue go down a dead-end road and make a U-turn before going in the original direction. He followed, and the car got onto Route 9, going west. There were two men in the car, and the officer believed the driver was the defendant, whom he’d known in high school.

Earlier that day, a sergeant looked up the defendant’s license and found it to be suspended. He called another police department, and the information was confirmed. The sergeant pulled up next to the car and recognized the defendant. He was worried he’d lose the car and told a detective he’d asked to assist that he would stop the defendant. He stopped the defendant’s car and pulled him out. The other police officers arrived 3-5 minutes later.

The defendant made a motion to suppress evidence, arguing it was an extraterritorial stop and it was greater than the permitted scope of the cities’ mutual aid agreement. The judge granted the motion to suppress, finding that the defendant’s suspended license didn’t fall within the mutual aid agreement statute under M.G.L. c. 40, § 8G.

The prosecution appealed. The appellate court explained that a cop doesn’t have authority outside his jurisdiction unless a statute specifically authorizes it, or the officer is performing a valid citizen’s arrest.

Under M.G.L. c. 40, § 8G, cities and towns can enter into what are known as mutual aid agreements for the purposes of protecting the property, lives, or safety of the people who are within the specific area that the agreement designates. A mutual aid agreement can provide for activation methods or requests and responses to mutual aid requests.

The mutual aid agreement at issue in this case was the Massachusetts Interagency Mutual Aid Agreement. It provided a basis for matters of public safety. It granted police powers, including arrest powers, to each police officer within the territorial limits of each party to the Agreement. Any city that is a party to this agreement can ask for assistance for valid law enforcement reasons. In this case, the defendant argued that the sergeant acted under the self-activation clauses of the Agreement, which inappropriately exceeded the scope of authority provided under M.G.L. c. 40, § 8G.

The appellate court found that the sergeant acted with the knowledge of the other city’s police department, such that the stop was made by request. The sergeant had called the city’s police department, told a detective there about what was happening, verified the license was suspended, and asked for help. When he realized assistance would be delayed, he told the detective he would stop the defendant.

The appellate court found that if the stop was made with the knowledge and acquiescence of the other police department, it could be treated as one that was requested. It held the extraterritorial stop of the defendant’s car was appropriate and reversed the lower court’s granting of the motion to suppress.

If you are charged with 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