Court Discusses the “Independent Source Doctrine” in Recent Massachusetts Burglary 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.

After the defendant’s wife provided her statement, the detectives then sought a search warrant for the home. In the search warrant affidavit, the detectives claimed that the reason for requesting the warrant was because neither the defendant nor his wife owned the home, and were staying with a relative. The warrant was approved, at which point the detective entered the home again and “rediscovered” the evidence.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence recovered from the home, arguing that the search warrant was based on illegally obtained information relating to the detectives’ illegal entry into his home. More specifically, the defendant claimed that the detectives’ misrepresentation that they had an arrest warrant for his wife allowed the detectives entry into his home when they would not otherwise have been able to get inside. The trial court rejected the defendant’s arguments, finding that the independent source doctrine prevented exclusion of the evidence. The defendant appealed.

In reviewing the denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress, the appellate court discussed the independent source doctrine. Essentially, the independent source doctrine allows prosecutors to use illegally obtained evidence if it would have been discovered anyhow through a valid independent source.

Here, however, the court concluded that the evidence obtained from the defendant’s home would not necessarily have been discovered but for the detectives’ illegal entry. The court explained that the detectives only decided to get a warrant after their illegal entry, suggesting that they did not believe they had sufficient evidence for a warrant without the evidence discovered in the home. The court reviewed the remaining evidence, finding that it was insufficient for the issuance of a warrant. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s decision and vacated the defendant’s convictions.

Have You Been Arrested for a Boston Theft Crime?

If you are facing a burglary charge, or any other Boston theft crime, contact Attorney Patrick J. Murphy for immediate assistance. Attorney Murphy is a veteran criminal defense attorney with decades of experience successfully handling the toughest and most complex cases. He can help you determine if police officers violated your rights during their investigation, and develop an effective strategy to fight the government’s charges. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 617-367-0450 today.

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