Articles Posted in Public Order Offenses

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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Under Instruction § 6.700 of the Criminal Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court, the Commonwealth needs to establish the following to show a criminal threat:  (1) the defendant stated an intention to harm someone or someone’s property presently or in the future, (2) the defendant intended this threat to be conveyed to a specific person, (3) the injury that was threatened would be a crime if actually committed, and (4) the defendant made this threat in a situation that could have reasonably caused the hearer to fear the defendant had both the intent and the ability to go through with the threat.

In a recent Massachusetts criminal threatening case, a man was charged with one count of threatening to perpetrate a crime under M.G.L. c. 275. section 2. The case arose when the defendant was arrested for not paying child support. He was taken out of the courtroom and moved to a lock-up area. While intake was taking place, he got angry and said that if this ruined his life, he would come back there with a machine gun. The intake was completed, and a different officer walked him to his cell. While being taken, he said that if this ruined his life, he would come back with a vengeance.

He was put in a cell and later moved to a house of correction. He moved to dismiss the complaint that he’d made a threat. This motion was granted. The Commonwealth appealed.

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In a recent Massachusetts assault case, the defendant was convicted of resisting arrest and assault and battery on a cop. The problems arose when two policemen were dispatched to his house for a 911 hang-up call. When the policemen got there, one thought he heard somebody talking. Through a window, the policeman saw the defendant’s co-defendant and heard a woman ask angrily why he hit her. The co-defendant moved to the back of the house, and the officer went in that direction. He heard a woman crying and a man yelling, trying to get her to be quiet.

The officer came back to the front of the house, where he found the other officer inside, talking to a woman who lived at the house. The co-defendant was clearly drunk and agitated and came up to the officers from the back of the house. He kept yelling at them and insisted they needed a warrant to be in the home.

The officers told him they’d gotten a 911 call and had to check on everyone. The co-defendant and defendant began yelling and stopped the officers from checking on the woman in the back of the house. The defendant told them they couldn’t go back. The officer smelled alcohol on both his breath and his co-defendant’s breath. The co-defendant grabbed one of the officers, and both he and the defendant pushed the cops. The defendant put his hands on one of the officers, who called to get backup. The officers told the defendant and co-defendant they were under arrest, but they didn’t follow orders.

In the case of Commonwealth v. Parker, a Massachusetts appellate court issued a nonbinding decision ruling on the crime of misleading a police officer engaged in a criminal investigation. The case arose when a police officer was dispatched to a street in Chelsea after shots were purportedly fired at the defendant bus driver.

The officer arrived at the scene. The defendant told the officer that someone boarded the bus, showed a handgun, and ordered her to hand him all her money, and then fired a shot that lodged in the driver seat. The defendant claimed she stood to get her wallet, but the person hit her and caused her to fall on the floor, and then the person snatched her wallet and fired shots at her. She claimed none of the bullets struck her, but two of them pierced the sleeve of her jacket.

The defendant described her attacker as a white male wearing a hooded jacket and told the officer that his firearm was similar to the officer’s. The officer conducted a search of the bus but didn’t find any shell casing that would have been ejected if a gun like his had been fired. He also didn’t smell gunpowder residue.
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