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Articles Posted in Theft Crimes

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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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts robbery case discussing whether the lower court properly granted the defendant’s motion to suppress. Ultimately, the appellate court concluded that the lower court erred in applying settled legal principles, and it reversed the granting of the defendant’s motion to suppress.The Facts of the Case

Police were investigating a series of robberies that occurred at various Dunkin Donuts restaurants. The first robbery occurred on July 8, 2015. Witnesses reported that the robber was a black man, about 180 to 200 pounds, who wore a stocking cap and drove a small blue car. Video surveillance showed the man was wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Later on July 8, another Dunkin Donuts store was robbed. Witnesses gave police a similar although not identical description. The store manager told police that the robber drove up to the drive-thru window, told the employee at the window not to push the panic button, and then reached in through the window to open the cash register. Video of the incident showed the robber was wearing plastic gloves and had on a distinctive sweatshirt.

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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 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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A recent Massachusetts robbery case arose when the defendant was convicted of armed burglary, masked armed robbery, and armed assault in a dwelling. The events giving rise to the case occurred one night when the victims, a couple, woke up to find that there were three masked men standing by their bed, screaming and pointing a gun toward them. A man with a crowbar asked where the money and drugs were. The victims showed the three men their valuables, which included $2,000 in cash, a guitar, and a gaming system. The female victim told the men where her debit card was and gave the man with the crowbar her PIN.

At trial, the defendants argued the evidence was not enough to prove their identity beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth didn’t have direct eyewitness identification testimony, but it submitted evidence about what the robber with the crowbar was wearing, including a sweatshirt with a Champion logo, and that the skin of his that did show was dark. The surveillance video showed a man with dark skin and a sweatshirt with a Champion logo using the victim’s debit card and PIN to withdraw cash from an ATM near the victim’s house after the robbery. The sweatshirt the defendant wanted to bring after his arrest was also a black Champion sweatshirt.

The female victim found a photograph of a dark-skinned masked man on the defendant’s Facebook page and said that the mask and skin color were almost identical to the robber carrying a crowbar. The defendant was related to the male victim and was familiar with the home.

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