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Articles Posted in Gun Crimes

In a recent firearm case coming out of a Massachusetts court, the defendant’s appeal of his guilty verdict was denied. The defendant argued that part of the evidence presented against him, an incriminating Snapchat video, should not have been admissible at trial. The court disagreed with the defendant’s argument and ultimately denied his appeal.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was shopping at a convenience store when he went to the cashier to check out. Another customer got in line behind the defendant, and she later testified that she waited patiently as the defendant engaged in a long conversation with the cashier. At one point, the defendant turned toward the second customer and asked whether she had a problem. The customer noticed that the defendant’s zipper was undone and that a firearm was on display under his shorts.

The customer quickly left the market and called the police. A few hours later, officers were patrolling the area and found a person matching the customer’s description. They stopped the person, who happened to be the defendant in this case. At that point, the defendant did not have any weapons on his person.

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In a recent case coming out of a Massachusetts court, the defendant argued that officers did not have a legal reason to conduct a traffic stop of his vehicle. Because the officers had no reason to conduct the stop, the incriminating evidence that the officers found during the traffic stop should have been suppressed. Looking at the circumstances, the court agreed with the defendant and reversed his original guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, two Boston police officers were on patrol one evening in an unmarked car. When they saw a double-parked vehicle, they went to investigate and found the defendant sitting in the back seat of the car. One of the two officers recognized the defendant from prior interactions, and the two individuals began conversing. The officers advised the defendant to move his car, and they then watched the defendant drive away.

The defendant passed several other parking spots, choosing not to park but instead to turn onto another street. At that point, the officers became suspicious and pulled the defendant over. One of the officers immediately saw a gun on the floor of the backseat, at which point the defendant was arrested.

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In a recent firearm case from a Massachusetts court, the defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating evidence was denied. A lower court had originally granted the defendant’s motion, deciding the police officer that originally stopped him did not have sufficient reason to suspect that he was carrying a gun. Disagreeing with the lower court, the higher court reversed the ruling and ultimately denied the defendant’s motion.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, one evening at approximately 2:00am, a police officer was patrolling in his car when he received a radio dispatch telling him of a ShotSpotter alert nearby. ShotSpotter devices go off when there is an audible gunshot, and when the devices are activated, they provide police officers with a sense of the area where the possible gunshot took place. Once the officer heard about the ShotSpotter, he was able to drive to the area identified by the device. As he was driving, the office received several more reports of ShotSpotter alerts and then began to hear gunshots for himself.

In the area identified by the ShotSpotter, the police officer only saw one person – the defendant in this case. According to the officer, the defendant appeared as though he was intoxicated. The officer immediately told the defendant to lie on the ground until another office could arrive. Once the second officer came on the scene, the two officers handcuffed the defendant, pat him down, and found a firearm in his right pocket.

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In a recent opinion from a Massachusetts court regarding firearms offenses, the defendant’s appeal of his guilty verdict was dismissed with no relief. The defendant had originally been found illegally possessing firearms after an undercover police officer connected with him on Snapchat and saw videos of him carrying a revolver. On appeal, the defendant argued that the undercover officer violated his constitutional right to privacy. Disagreeing with the defendant, the court affirmed the guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, in 2017, a Boston police officer sent a friend request to a private Snapchat account that belonged to the defendant. The officer sent the request from an undercover account that he had created for the purpose of investigating crimes on social media. According to the officer, his username on the account was a pseudonym chosen at random, and the profile picture associated with his account was the default picture chosen by Snapchat.

The defendant accepted the undercover officer’s friend request. Upon reviewing the defendant’s posts on Snapchat, the officer came to realize that he was familiar with the defendant through his previous work as a police officer and that he knew the defendant was prohibited from carrying firearms because of prior criminal convictions.

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Recently, a Massachusetts court denied a defendant’s appeal in a firearms case. The defendant had been found guilty of possessing a firearm without a license, and he made four different arguments to try and reverse the original verdict. The court took issue with all four arguments, ultimately denying his appeal and keeping the guilty verdict as it stood.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, in May 2016, a large truck ran into a telephone pole on the side of the road. The pole immediately broke into two pieces, and the truck blocked the road so that no one could drive by. The police department arrived at the scene and found live electrical wires hanging in the area, fluid leaking from the telephone pole, and the defendant sitting in the driver’s seat. An emergency vehicle transported the defendant to the hospital after discovering that he had sustained multiple injuries.

Officers decided the vehicle needed to be towed, and they searched the car before calling the tow truck. In the vehicle, officers found a black duffel bag with a full beer can, two empty liquor bottles, and a black .22 caliber handgun with a loaded magazine. When they conducted a records check, the officers discovered that the defendant was not licensed to carry a firearm. The defendant was later found guilty of possessing a firearm without a license.

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Recently, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed a lower court’s denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. The case arose when the Worcester Police were granted a search warrant for the defendant’s apartment and followed the defendant as he was seen leaving the apartment building in a motor vehicle. After the vehicle sped away, the police returned to the apartment building and executed the search warrant. An officer knocked three times on the apartment door, announced that the police were present with a search warrant, and the officers waited five to eight seconds before entering the apartment with force. The apartment search revealed several items, including a firearm and ammunition.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the failure of the police to knock or announce their presence at all before forcing entry into the apartment should prevent the items found in his apartment from being used against him in court.

Generally, when reviewing a lower court’s decision on a motion to suppress, the appeals court must accept the lower court judge’s findings of fact unless there is some clear error made by the lower court judge. Also, in instances where there is conflicting testimony regarding a particular event, it is left up to the lower court judge to determine the weight and credibility of any oral testimony presented at the motion to suppress hearing.

In a recent opinion, the Supreme Judicial Court vacated a Massachusetts defendant’s possession of a firearm conviction. The case arose when a state trooper followed the defendant’s vehicle and activated his lights to stop the defendant for driving five miles over the speed limit. The defendant sped, parked, and fled while the police pursued him. When the police reached the defendant, he threw something from his pocket into a dumpster. Officials later recovered a baggie of crack cocaine in the dumpster, and a vehicle search revealed several items, including a pistol with several rounds of inserted ammunition. After reading the defendant his Miranda rights, a police officer inquired about the items in the vehicle, and the defendant stated that he ran because of the drugs and he did not know about the handgun.

Amongst other issues, the defendant argued that under Commonwealth v. Brown, a defendant could only be convicted of possessing a loaded firearm, if the Commonwealth proves that the defendant knew that the firearm was loaded. The defendant argued that this decision is retroactive, and therefore the Commonwealth did not meet their evidentiary burden.

In most cases, Massachusetts courts do not analyze whether a decision applies retroactively or prospectively. Generally, courts retain discretion to apply the decision only prospectively. Courts will look to whether the retroactive application is consistent with the rule and whether it would result in significant “hardship or inequity.” In this case, the court did not find any reason to only apply the decision prospectively. In analyzing the statute, the court found that the element of knowledge required by the lesser included offense of unlawful possession of a loaded firearm, must be evident to convict the defendant of the greater offense. Moreover, the court reasoned that the Commonwealth’s purported hardship from their lack of warning that they needed to prove the knowledge element is outweighed by the risk that the defendant would be unlawfully convicted of a crime.

Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court vacated a lower court’s order permitting a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. The Massachusetts criminal case arose when police arrested the defendant in connection with a fatal shooting. According to the court’s opinion, officers confiscated the defendant’s cell phone and then obtained a search warrant to search it for evidence. Before trial, the judge granted the defendant’s motion to suppress the cell phone evidence. The judge reasoned that the police obtained the warrant without establishing a sufficient nexus between the murder and the defendant’s cell phone. She did not address whether the search was “sufficiently particular,” but she noted that the search was not “limited in time.” The Commonwealth appealed and the court reviewed whether there was probable cause and if the search exceeded the scope of the warrant.

The Fourth Amendment and Massachusetts Declaration of Rights require that a magistrate determine whether probable cause exists before issuing a search warrant. There must be a “substantial basis” that lead a fact finder to determine that the items sought are related to the criminal activity under investigation, and in the place to be searched when the warrant is issued. Essentially, along with probable cause, the government must establish a “nexus” between the item sought and the alleged crime. Probable cause inquiries are fact-based, and courts resolve them on a case-by-case basis.

In this case, an eyewitness described seeing a male standing over the victim then fleeing the scene in a light-colored vehicle with an out-of-state license plate. Another witness saw a light-colored sedan driving quickly down a street. He then saw the car’s occupants moving around in the car, as if they were changing their clothes. When police arrived, they found the three men, including the defendant, sitting in the car. After realizing that one of the men matched the shooter’s description, police removed all three men from the car. At the time, the defendant was talking on his cell phone. Officers discovered a firearm that had recently been fired. Moreover, the victim’s cell phone contained a violent conversation between the victim and a contact believed to be one of the occupants. After that, the detective received a warrant to search the defendant’s cell phone. The warrant did not have any date restrictions.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a decision in a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Massachusetts gun charge. The Commonwealth charged the defendant with a weapons charge in violation of § 10(n), but it did not charge him with the predicate offenses of § 10(a) or (c). A district judge dismissed the case because of a defect in charging, and the Commonwealth filed a second complaint based on the same conduct. The defendant moved to dismiss the case based on a violation of Double Jeopardy principles.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment mandates that a “person cannot twice be put in jeopardy for the same offense.” The rights create protections against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal and conviction. Additionally, it protects defendants from multiple punishments for the same offense. The law also bars retrials of defendants whose initial trial ends without a conviction, except in cases where the court declares a mistrial because of “manifest necessity.” Courts reviewing double jeopardy claims generally consider four factors, judicial estoppel, attachment, the character of the terminating order, and whether a mistrial occurred.

Judicial estoppel prevents parties from taking a position in a case that is contrary to their position in earlier proceedings. In this case, the court found that the motion judge was incorrect in finding that the defendant was estopped from arguing for dismissal based on the Fifth Amendment. Next, in reviewing attachment, the court must determine whether jeopardy attached in the first proceeding. The court found that case law has long made clear that jeopardy attaches when a jury is empaneled and sworn. Therefore, here, jeopardy attached in the first proceeding at that point. The court then reviews whether the termination was based on an acquittal or procedural. Here, the termination was procedural and did not constitute an acquittal; therefore, the inquiry moves to whether the judge declared a mistrial. In this case, the defendant did not consent to prosecution, and he did not invite a mistrial. The court found that judicial estoppel should not preclude the defendant’s fifth amendment claim. Moreover, because there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts gun case, affirming the principle that “a conviction cannot stand if the defendant proves that the jury’s deliberations were infected by racial or ethnic bias.” The case involved a defendant who entered a guilty plea to a sentencing enhancement who later found out from a juror that the jury’s deliberations were “infected by racial bias.”

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, immediately after the defendant was found guilty of possession of a firearm, one of the jurors approached defense counsel concerned about the “amount of racism vocalized during the deliberations by several of the jurors who voted to find the defendant guilty.” Defense counsel asked the court for the names and contact information of the jurors so that they could investigate the claim. The judge denied the defendant’s request, instead suggesting that the prosecutor agree to drop the more serious sentencing enhancement and proceed only with the less serious enhancement. The prosecutor agreed, at which point the defendant pled guilty to the lesser of two sentencing enhancements.

The defendant appealed his guilty plea, arguing that the judge improperly denied his motion to look into any potential racial bias in the jury. The defendant further claimed that his guilty plea regarding the sentencing enhancement was involuntary and, therefore, invalid.

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