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Court Suppresses Evidence Found During Police Officer’s Search That Was Conducted Before a Warrant Was Issued

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug possession case discussing whether evidence seized as a result of the police officers’ decision to “freeze” a home while the officers obtained a search warrant. The court ultimately determined that the officers were unable to identify any “specific information supporting an objectively reasonable belief that evidence will indeed be removed or destroyed.” Thus, the court held that the defendant’s motion to suppress should be granted.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police officers were investigating a home after they received a tip that the house was involved in a prostitution ring. An undercover officer entered the home and pretended to be a customer. After being offered sex for money, the officers called in backup to arrest several people inside the house.

Evidently, the arresting officers noticed that other people were in the home, and decided to “freeze” the home, meaning to conduct a search to remove all occupants. In an upstairs bedroom, police found the defendant who was in possession of crack cocaine. The defendant was arrested and charged with possession of a class B substance.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the crack that was seized during the officer’s “freeze” of the home. The defendant argued that there was no reason for the police to freeze the home while they obtained a warrant, and as a result, the officer’s search of the house was illegal.

The Court’s Analysis

The court agreed with the defendant and granted her motion to suppress. The court began by acknowledging that when exigent circumstances are present, police can enter a home without a warrant. However, the justification for this type of entry is based on an officer’s belief that evidence inside the home would be removed or destroyed.

Here, the court noted that after the arrest of those involved in the suspected prostitution ring, police did not indicate that there was any other evidence in the house related to prostitution or any other crime. The court explained that, absent the presence of any additional evidence that needed to be preserved, there was no reason to search the home and clear out its occupants. Instead, the court explained, police could have established a perimeter around the home and entered once the warrant was issued. Because the officers’ search of the home was not justified, the court determined that the defendant’s motion to suppress should be granted.

Have You Been Charged with a Massachusetts Drug Crime?

If you have recently been charged with a Massachusetts drug crime, you should discuss your case with a dedicated Boston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy is a preeminent Massachusetts criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling Boston drug cases, gun cases, and other serious felony offenses. To learn how Attorney Murphy can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Court Approves Search Warrant in Drug Case Involving Confidential Informant, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published November 6, 2018

Appellate Court Affirms Violation of Defendant’s Probationary Sentence, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published October 27, 2018