In a recent non-precedential case, a Massachusetts defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He was subject to enhanced penalties. A judge granted the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of the firearm. The case arose when a uniformed police officer was standing outside a bar that he routinely surveilled for weapons violations and fights. The officer was approached a stranger who pointed out the defendant, claiming the defendant had shown him a gun holstered on his hip.
The defendant was already walking away and then turned back to look at the police officer. He abruptly turned left, and the officer inferred that the defendant changed his course in response to seeing the stranger talking to the officer. The officer requested backup and drove around the block in a cruiser. Another officer responded to the call for backup. When the officer found the defendant, he got out of his cruiser and told the defendant he wanted to talk to him.
The defendant ignored the office and crossed in front of a minivan. The officer heard something metallic drop to the ground. One of the officers saw him drop a gun and pulled out his own weapon. The defendant was ordered to the ground. The first officer handcuffed the defendant and arrested him. The defendant had been in possession of a .45 caliber pistol.
The motion judge reasoned that all the police had when they tried to stop the defendant was a tip from a bystander that the defendant was carrying a firearm. Just carrying a firearm is not evidence that the person is unlawfully carrying a firearm. Many people register their weapons. The judge granted the defendant’s motion to suppress.
The appellate court explained that the police needed to have a reasonable suspicion that the suspect had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a crime. Reasonable suspicion is based on specific and articulable facts and any inferences that reasonably flow from those facts based on the officer’s experience.
The appellate court explained that even though the tip alone did not justify a seizure, the officer was not restrained from investigating the claim that the defendant was carrying a gun. Carrying a gun in public warrants an investigation. The appellate court explained that the defendant wasn’t seized until the police officer pulled out his weapon and ordered him to the ground after he had seen the suspect drop the gun.
The appellate court explained that, in a prior case, a police officer had been given a description of the suspect and tried to stop the defendant. The defendant ignored the request to stop and talk. The officer again tried to stop him, and when the defendant reached for his waistband, the officer drew his weapon. The court in that case found that the officer asking the defendant to stop was not a seizure. Officers can ask anybody to talk to them, as long as they do not claim the person isn’t free to ignore them.
In this case, the appellate court explained that the officer’s command that he wanted to talk to the defendant was intended to start a conversation. The officer wanted to create an encounter, and it was the sound of the gun that justified the seizure. The defendant’s behavior suggested that his possession of the gun could be unlawful.
Currently, a major Democrat-backed gun control bill is being discussed on Beacon Hill. There is a portion of the bill that will give local police the ability to deny a rifle or shotgun license based on “suitability.” This bill may change the rules of handgun possession in Massachusetts in significant ways.
If you were arrested for a gun 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