Articles Posted in Improper Police Conduct

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts homicide case discussing whether the statements made by the defendant should be suppressed. The court held that the police did not safeguard the defendant’s rights by informally translating the Miranda warnings, and went further to hold that the cell site location information (CSLI) was a product of those statements. Thus, the court held that the CSLI data should also be suppressed.

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant’s girlfriend was found dead in her car, with a gunshot wound to the head. The investigating officer noticed a surveillance camera nearby, and after showing the video to family members, the detective developed the defendant as a suspect.

Once police identified the defendant, they arrested him. At this point, police officers realized that the defendant would need to have his Miranda warning provided orally and in Spanish because he only spoke Spanish, and was illiterate in both English and Spanish. The detectives found an officer who spoke Spanish, but was not trained as a translator. This officer read the defendant his Miranda rights.

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Instead April of 2019, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an important opinion in a Massachusetts drug case discussing whether police officers can use a GPS tracking device to track the location of a suspect without first obtaining a warrant. The court held that police needed to obtain a warrant, and, by failing to do so, anything they recovered as a result of the information obtained was suppressible as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”

According to the court’s written opinion, police officers were in the process of investigating a homicide and obtained the cellular site location information (CSLI) for one of the suspect’s phones. Police suspected that the homicide was drug-related, and that there were several people involved, including the defendant. The cell phone the police tracked was registered to the defendant but used by another individual. However, the police had reason to believe that the defendant would be traveling with the user of the cell phone.

The CSLI data eventually led police to the defendant’s residence, which was a three-story building with multiple rooms available to rent. Police knocked on the door and were admitted into the home. Police eventually made their way up to the third floor, where they encountered the defendant. The police explained that they were investigating a homicide and that they believed the suspect may be in the building. They also mentioned that narcotics were involved. The defendant gave his consent for the officers to enter his room and conduct a search. During the search, the police found $2,200 in cash and two bricks of cocaine. The cocaine was located in a crawl space. The trial court ultimately granted the defendant’s motion to suppress.

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Last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts car theft case discussing whether the police had probable cause to arrest the defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the officers had probable cause to believe that the car was stolen and that the defendant was in possession of the car, but not that the defendant knew the car was stolen. Thus, the court suppressed the post-arrest statements made by the defendant, because his arrest was illegal.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was seen leaning next to a car. As police drove by, they ran the car’s plates and determined that the vehicle was stolen. The police observed the defendant open the car door, throw something in, and then close the door. The defendant eventually got into the car through the passenger’s side door and sat down in the front passenger seat. There was no one else in the car.

Based on their observations, the police arrested the defendant. After his arrest, the defendant admitted to knowing that the car was stolen. The defendant was charged with receipt of stolen property.

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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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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 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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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts gun case requiring the court determine if a firearm that was recovered from the defendant after he was illegally stopped by police should be suppressed. The court found that the defendant’s act of punching the police officer after the illegal search had begun was an intervening criminal act justifying the defendant’s arrest and the officers’ subsequent search. Thus, the lower court’s decision to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress was affirmed.

The Facts of the Case

Several police officers were in an unmarked car when they observed what they believed to be a drug transaction. The officers circled back to see if they could confirm their suspicions, but by the time they returned to where the transaction had occurred the parties had left.

Shortly after, the officers came across a group of several men, one of whom was the defendant. Another one of the men was a known gang member. Initially, the officers thought that they may have been involved in the drug transaction, but upon approaching, they realized that not to be the case. Nevertheless, the officers exited their car and frisked members of the group, including the defendant. Nothing was recovered.

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Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion in a Fourth Amendment privacy case that will have a major effect on Massachusetts criminal investigations. The court’s holding was that police are required to obtain a warrant before they retrieve cell-phone tracking data from a cellular phone provider.

The Facts of the Case

The case related to a police investigation of a robbery that allegedly involved several people. The police made four arrests, and one of those men told police about several others who were also involved in the robbery. The man gave police the phone numbers of several of the alleged conspirators, including the defendant.

Police took the defendant’s cell phone number, and filed a request under the Stored Communications Act to obtain his cell phone records. That Act allows for cell providers to hand over customer information when the government can show that there is a “reasonable belief” that it is “relevant and material” to an ongoing investigation. Chief among the information sought was historical location data of where the defendant’s cell phone had been over the past 127 days. The information was given to police, and it provided them with 12,898 location points, all of which were around where the alleged robbery occurred.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts drug trafficking case discussing whether the evidence seized by the police was done so in violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights. Specifically, the court had to determine if the defendants should have been provided with Miranda warnings prior to being asked questions by police. Ultimately, the court concluded that, although the defendants were not free to leave, they were not “in custody” for the purposes of the Miranda analysis.

The Facts of the Case

A police officer was walking into a store when he heard one of the defendants on the phone. The officer believed that the defendant was arranging a narcotics transaction, and he began to follow the defendant. The defendant ultimately met up with another man, and the two engaged in a transaction of unknown objects. This confirmed the officer’s suspicions, and he called back-up.

The officers approached the two defendants and separated them immediately. One of the officers claimed to have given one of the defendants some version of the Miranda warnings, but the officer was unable to recall exactly what was stated to the defendant. The other defendant was not read any of his Miranda rights.

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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.

The 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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