Articles Posted in Theft Crimes

The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution protect Massachusetts residents from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement when a crime is being investigated. The most accepted and common way for law enforcement officers to ensure compliance with the Fourth Amendment is for them to obtain a valid search or arrest warrant from a judge before performing a search or making an arrest. For a judge to issue a search warrant, the applicant must demonstrate that there is probable cause that the search or arrest is valid. A properly obtained search warrant is difficult to challenge in a criminal prosecution, and evidence gained therefrom is generally admissible during a criminal trial.

Although a valid warrant sets the gold standard for a permissible search, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement which permit law enforcement officers to perform a search without a warrant. One exception exists when an officer is performing a brief investigatory stop of a criminal suspect. The Massachusetts Court of Appeal recently affirmed the conviction of a man who was searched and arrested for burglary after the responding officers approached and searched him without a valid warrant.

The defendant in the recently decided appeal was arrested about a block away from the scene of an alleged burglary. The defendant partially matched the description of the perpetrator as recounted by the victim from her observation of security camera footage taken of the alleged burglary. After the defendant was stopped and detained, the witness confirmed in person that he was the person that she witnessed burglarizing her home on the surveillance footage. The defendant was then searched, revealing that he possessed items stolen from the victim’s home, and he was arrested and charged with burglary.

In a recent case coming out of a Massachusetts court, defendants appealed their convictions of armed home invasion, armed and masked robbery, as well as unlawfully carrying a firearm. On appeal, the defendants made several arguments, one of which was that the judge failed to provide crucial instructions to the jury during trial. Because of this error, the court vacated one of the defendant’s judgments of conviction of home invasion. The rest of the convictions were affirmed.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendants were charged after a home invasion in January 2014. Two men wearing facemasks entered the victim’s home around 9:00pm, carrying a handgun, a crowbar, zip ties, and duct tape. They dragged the victim to a safe and forced him to open it, proceeding to take $50,000 in cash and jewelry.

The men fled from the scene and got into a vehicle. A third person, one of the defendants in this case, drove the car away immediately. Through investigations into the men, officers found evidence such as jewelry, coins, and large amounts of cash in each of their possessions. The officers also found a handgun in one of the defendant’s basements. The defendants were tried together and were found guilty of armed home invasion as well as three counts each of armed and masked robbery.

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In a recent case involving investigators’ use of individuals’ cell phone data, a Massachusetts court determined that law enforcement infringed on the defendant’s privacy rights by using his cell phone provider’s data without first asking his permission. The court suppressed part of the incriminating evidence that had been presented against the defendant, reminding investigators that they have to have probable cause before attempting to obtain cell phone data when looking for suspects of a crime.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, throughout September and October of 2018, clerks at six stores in the Boston area were robbed at gunpoint by an unidentified suspect. On a separate occasion in the same area, a suspect shot and killed a store clerk during an attempted robbery. There were several commonalities between the incidents, including that the stores were convenience of gasoline stores, the perpetrator in all of the incidents had the same build, and the robber used similar tactics in each offense.

Investigators worked with the FBI to identify a suspect. They looked at data from “tower dumps,” which are data sets including an enormous amount of cell phone location information from towers in a given area. The investigators obtained two warrants: one relating to three of the robberies, the second relating to three of the other robberies. Each warrant required cell phone providers to hand over information about where their customers were located on the day and time of each robbery.

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In a recent opinion having to do with fraudulent credit cards, a Massachusetts court reversed the lower court’s decision granting a defendant’s motion to suppress. The defendant was charged with several crimes, one of which was possession of counterfeit credit cards. The defendant had argued that incriminating evidence supporting this charge should be denied, and at first, the court agreed with him. When the Commonwealth appealed, however, the higher court reversed that decision and decided to deny the defendant’s motion to suppress.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, police officers received information in December 2017 from an attorney that represented a local furniture store regarding two fraudulent purchases of furniture. The lawyer explained that the day after the furniture was delivered to an apartment, the credit card company disputed the charges and the furniture store received a chargeback notice.

An additional order was placed by telephone to the same store shortly thereafter, and again the furniture store received notice of a chargeback. An employee of the store went to the delivery address to investigate, and the person answering the door said that he had to get ready for school, then never came back to the door.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts robbery case. The court’s opinion involved the defendant’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence used by the jury to convict him of the offense. After hearing the defendant’s appeal, the court reversed his conviction, finding that there was a lack of evidence supporting a finding that the defendant armed himself with a weapon before entering the home.

In any Boston criminal case, the elements of the crime define the offense. Before a judge or jury can convict someone of a crime, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. When a defendant argues that the prosecution failed to meet its burden in proving its case, they are challenging the “sufficiency of the evidence.”

The Facts of the Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts burglary case involving the defendant’s challenge to certain evidence recovered by police during their investigation. More specifically, the defendant claimed that the evidence the police relied on to obtain a search warrant was tainted because they discovered the evidence through an illegal entry into his home. Agreeing with the defendant, the court reversed the lower courts’ decisions to deny his motion to suppress, remanding the case for further proceedings.

The Facts of the Case

This case arose after a string of residential burglaries. When investigating the crimes, detectives located evidence suggesting that the defendant and his wife were involved in the burglaries. Before obtaining a warrant, the detectives went to the defendant’s home, knocked on the door, and spoke with the defendant’s wife. The detectives inaccurately told the defendant’s wife that they had a warrant for her arrest.

Upon hearing this news, the defendant’s wife allowed the detective into the home, where they located some of the stolen items. The detectives also found the defendant inside. Both the defendant and his wife were arrested. At the station, the defendant’s wife admitted to her involvement in the burglaries.

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When investigating crimes in Massachusetts, law enforcement officers rely on a variety of methods. In most cases, police rely on statements from the alleged victim, physical evidence they gathered from the scene, video surveillance, and a host of other types of tactics. However, what can police officers do if no one recognized the suspect? A video is useless if there is no one to compare it to, and without a name, police may run into a dead-end.

In situations like the one described above, police may rely on newly-available facial recognition software to identify a suspect. Facial recognition software allows law enforcement officers to put a suspect’s picture into the program, and compares the photo to thousands of others in a database, looking for a match. While this may sound like it would work well in theory, in practice, facial recognition software has been responsible for several recent wrongful arrests, and an unknown number of wrongful convictions. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that facial recognition programs tend to not work as well when attempting to match Black or Asian faces.

According to a recent article by the New York Times, police wrongfully arrested a man after mistakenly believing that he committed a serious crime. According to the article, police responded to a call reporting a man stealing candy from a store. When police arrived, they found the man, who apologized and offered to pay for the items. He gave police his ID; however, when police went back to run it through their system, they realized it was a fake. The man fled, nearly hitting a police officer with his car.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts robbery case discussing show-up identifications and when they are permissible under state law. Following an arrest, one of the most important things law enforcement can do to further an investigation is to get a positive identification from the victim of the crime. However, eyewitness identifications have come under scrutiny in recent years, as studies have repeatedly shown that they are not as accurate as once thought.

Law enforcement can conduct identifications in several ways. The gold-standard when it comes to identification is a double-blind photo identification. The term double-blind refers to the fact that neither the eyewitness nor the law enforcement officer administering the procedure know who the suspect is. In a double-blind photo array, one detective puts the suspect’s photograph with several other people’s picture, and provides the photos to another detective who is not involved in the case. That detective then asks the alleged victim to make an identification. Double-blind photo arrays eliminate the concern that the detective administering the array could give a clue to the alleged victim.

In the case mentioned above, the defendant was identified by way of show-up identification. A show-up identification occurs shortly after an arrest. Law enforcement will transport the alleged victim to the arrestee, and ask the alleged victim if the arrestee was the doer of the crime. Of course, there are many problems with a show-up identification based on its inherently suggestive nature. For example, in this case, both alleged victims were transported in the same police car to the defendant’s location, where he was handcuffed up against a wall, surrounded by police officers. As the officer with the alleged victims arrived, he shined a bright spotlight onto the defendant, and both of the complaining witnesses immediately identified the defendant. The defendant was ultimately convicted and appealed his conviction based on the suggestiveness of the show-up identification.

Criminal statutes are not known for their clear, concise language, and the Massachusetts burglary statute is no exception. Indeed, a quick read of the state’s burglary statute will likely leave a reader confused about what constitutes burglary in Massachusetts. However, the crime of burglary can be broken down into a few elements.

All crimes have two basic requirements, which are the “act” element and the “intent” element. For burglary cases, the act element is broken down into a few parts. First, a burglary requires an entry into a dwelling of another party. A dwelling is a structure that is designed to be occupied, but this does not necessarily require that the structure is actually occupied at the time of the entry. While, technically speaking, this element requires actual entry into a dwelling, a failed entry may still result in a prosecution for attempted burglary.

The second element of a Massachusetts burglary offense is that the unlawful entry must occur at night. This requirement, which was inherited from the Common Law, has been abandoned in most states; however, it remains a required element in Massachusetts. That being said, unlawful entry into a dwelling during the day is still a crime; it is just not considered a burglary.

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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