Search Warrant Requirements in Massachusetts

In a non-precedential case, the Massachusetts appellate court considered a case involving marijuana transportation from New York to homes in Massachusetts. There were many vehicles and people involved in transporting it. The Commonwealth applied for and received two search warrants in connection with the contraband. The affidavit it submitted was based on information from a confidential informant developed in collaboration with the New York State police. Because of the warrants, the police were able to discovery and seize large amounts of marijuana, firearms and a huge quantity of ammunition.

One of the people involved was indicted for trafficking in marijuana and conspiracy to traffic. After he was indicted, he filed a motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to the warrants. A judge denied the defendant’s motion and he appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the ruling. It explained that the inquiry involves the affidavit attached to the application for the warrant. The affidavit has to contain enough information that (1) the issuing magistrate would be able to determine that items sought by the search warrant were related to criminal activity that was being investigated and (2) that the items were expected to be located in the place covered by the warrant.

If a confidential informant is used, there is a two-prong test involving knowledge and veracity. First, the magistrate would need to know from the affidavit about the underlying circumstances from which the informant believed the contraband was in a particular place. The magistrate would also need to know some of the underlying circumstances from which the person signing the affidavit could conclude the informant had been reliable and truthful.

In this case, the affiant had stated that a confidential informant knew about the drugs being shipped and delivered through personal knowledge. The affiant had offered enough detail from which the affiant could infer the informant’s direct knowledge and personal observation. The level of detail made clear it wasn’t simply a rumor. The affidavit also indicated that the officers knew the identity of the informant and his or her whereabouts.

The appellate court explained that the police were able to corroborate information provided by the informant, including the identity of one of the parties and the location of the white tractor-trailer carrying the contraband. The lower court judge had found that the nature of the activity observed by police officers was suggestive of drug distribution. Every participant had prior drug convictions or prior charges. The conviction of the defendant’s co-defendant had arisen from executing a search warrant at a property associated with this case. At that property was marijuana, cocaine, money and paper related to drug trafficking. The judge had sound reasons to find probable cause in the warrants.

The defendant also argued that there was a mistake in the addresses in the motion judge’s denial of the motion to suppress and this was fatal. The appellate court reasoned that this was an inadvertent mistake and that the motion judge understood which defendant was related to which property.

The defendant also argued that there had been a warrantless search because a trooper had heard activities on one of the properties without a warrant so this evidence could not be used to support a showing of probable cause. The appellate court explained that even if the evidence was taken out of the affidavit there was enough already in the affidavit to find probable cause that the items sought would be found at the locations covered by the warrant.

If you were arrested for a drug crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss your Massachusetts criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or through this website.

More Blog Posts:

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Defendant in Mandatory Minimum Case Alleyne v. U.S., Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 19, 2013
Court of Appeals Ruling Affirms Prior Conviction Record Insufficient to Establish Identity, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 11, 2013

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