Recently, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed a lower court’s denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. The case arose when the Worcester Police were granted a search warrant for the defendant’s apartment and followed the defendant as he was seen leaving the apartment building in a motor vehicle. After the vehicle sped away, the police returned to the apartment building and executed the search warrant. An officer knocked three times on the apartment door, announced that the police were present with a search warrant, and the officers waited five to eight seconds before entering the apartment with force. The apartment search revealed several items, including a firearm and ammunition.
The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the failure of the police to knock or announce their presence at all before forcing entry into the apartment should prevent the items found in his apartment from being used against him in court.
Generally, when reviewing a lower court’s decision on a motion to suppress, the appeals court must accept the lower court judge’s findings of fact unless there is some clear error made by the lower court judge. Also, in instances where there is conflicting testimony regarding a particular event, it is left up to the lower court judge to determine the weight and credibility of any oral testimony presented at the motion to suppress hearing.
On appeal, the defendant argued that the police did not wait long enough before their forced entry into the apartment. However, the lower court judge determined that the officer waited between seven to eleven seconds before entering the apartment after receiving no response. In Commonwealth v. Bush, the judge found this time interval to be reasonable. Additionally, in Commonwealth v. Antwine, the court held that the police were not required to keep knocking until someone opened the door.
The defendant also argued on appeal that there was no threat of violence or any risk that evidence would be destroyed since the police were aware that the defendant was not present in the apartment at the time of the search. Because the defendant did not raise this claim in the lower court, there were no facts to support this claim, and therefore the appeals court decided not to consider the claim.
Here, the Appeals court accepted the lower court’s finding of facts and thus agreed with the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to suppress. As a result of the court’s opinion, the defendant’s sentence will not change.
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