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Court Denies Defendant’s Motion to Suppress Text Message Sent to His Phone While in Police Custody

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.

The court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress, finding that the police officer did not conduct a “search” of the phone by looking at the phone as it rang. The court initially explained that the phone was lawfully seized during the defendant’s arrest. The court then went on to explain that there was no evidence suggesting the police officer manipulated the phone in any way to see the text message. The court explained that, other than look at the phone as it rang, the officer did not have to do anything to view the message that was displayed on the screen. Thus, the court determined that the defendant’s motion must be denied because the text message was not the product of an illegal “search.”

Have You Been Arrested for a Boston Drug Crime?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a Boston drug crime, understanding Massachusetts search and seizure law is critical. In many cases, evidence is obtained by police in violation of a citizen’s constitutional rights and must be suppressed. Once this evidence is suppressed it cannot be considered by the judge or jury, and in many possessory cases involving a suppressed gun or drugs, the prosecution will withdraw the case after a motion is successfully litigated. Attorney Patrick Murphy is a dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney with decades of experience helping those who face serious criminal charges defend their freedom. To learn how Attorney Murphy can help you with your case, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Court Explains the Difference Between “Attempted” and “Threatened” Battery, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published September 1, 2018

Massachusetts Court Upholds Officer’s Frisk Although It Was Not Justified at Its Inception, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published July 6, 2018