Recently, a Massachusetts court denied a defendant’s appeal in a firearms case. The defendant had been found guilty of possessing a firearm without a license, and he made four different arguments to try and reverse the original verdict. The court took issue with all four arguments, ultimately denying his appeal and keeping the guilty verdict as it stood.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, in May 2016, a large truck ran into a telephone pole on the side of the road. The pole immediately broke into two pieces, and the truck blocked the road so that no one could drive by. The police department arrived at the scene and found live electrical wires hanging in the area, fluid leaking from the telephone pole, and the defendant sitting in the driver’s seat. An emergency vehicle transported the defendant to the hospital after discovering that he had sustained multiple injuries.
Officers decided the vehicle needed to be towed, and they searched the car before calling the tow truck. In the vehicle, officers found a black duffel bag with a full beer can, two empty liquor bottles, and a black .22 caliber handgun with a loaded magazine. When they conducted a records check, the officers discovered that the defendant was not licensed to carry a firearm. The defendant was later found guilty of possessing a firearm without a license.
On appeal, the defendant made four main arguments. First, he argued that the judge should have suppressed the firearm – it should not, said the defendant, have been used against him as incriminating evidence. The defendant said that after searching the vehicle, the officer tampered with the gun before showing it to the defendant, and the officer did not have explicit permission to test the firearm. Instead, the court had ordered the officer to let the defendant see the firearm before it was altered or tested in any way. The court denied this argument because the defendant did not submit any evidence supporting the fact that the officer did, in fact, alter the handgun in any way before showing it to the defendant. Without evidence proving the officer had actually tested the firearm, the court could not rule that the firearm should have been suppressed.
Secondly, the defendant argued that there was not enough evidence to prove that he actually owned the firearm. The court disagreed since the gun was found in the same bag as other possessions that were ultimately proven to belong to the defendant. The officers had also noted that the full beer can in the bag was cold, and this fact supported the conclusion that the defendant had accessed the duffel bag recently. Because of these two facts, the court ruled that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that the defendant was the owner of the firearm.
Next, the defendant argued that the officers did not actually have permission to search his vehicle before it was towed. The court also denied this argument, ruling that the only purpose of the officers’ search was to obtain an inventory of items found in the truck, not to investigate the defendant for any crime. Because it was appropriate for the officers to check the contents of the vehicle before it was towed, the search of the vehicle was ultimately justified.
Lastly, the defendant argued that the trial judge had unfairly ruled against him at several points of the trial and that his conviction was unfair as a result. For example, the defendant argued that the judge interrupted defense counsel during the lawyer’s closing arguments and that this gave him a disadvantage during the trial. The court disagreed with the defendant, saying that even though the judge did interrupt the defense lawyer, this interruption did not significantly affect the outcome of the defendant’s case.
Because it disagreed with all four of the defendant’s arguments, the court sustained the original guilty verdict.
Have You Been Charged with Firearm Possession in Massachusetts?
If you have been charged with carrying a firearm without a license in Massachusetts, there are defenses you can raise to fight your case. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, we are dedicated to advocating vigorously on your behalf. We provide professional, experienced guidance and we understand how to provide the best possible representation for your individual circumstances. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 617-367-0450.