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Massachusetts Court Holds Police Officers Lacked Justification to Order Motorist Out of His Car

Recently, the state supreme court issued an opinion in a Boston drug crime case involving a large quantity of drugs that was seized after the police ordered the defendant out of his car. The case discusses the type of evidence that a police officer must have to order a motorist out of their car when the motorist is suspected of a crime.

According to the court’s opinion, police officers received an anonymous tip that a Volvo containing a large amount of narcotics would be present at a particular intersection in the Roxbury area of Boston. The police set up surveillance and watched as a pedestrian approached the vehicle. The pedestrian engaged in conversation with the driver, and the driver then reached down toward the floor of the passenger side of the car. The officers could not see if anything was exchanged between the men, but they thought that the interaction was consistent with an exchange.

The officers followed the Volvo as it pulled away, and they initiated a traffic stop based on their suspicions. When they approached the Volvo, the defendant was the sole occupant. The police officers claimed that the defendant was avoiding eye contact and breathing heavily. The officers ordered the defendant out of his car and, as the defendant was exiting the vehicle, noticed that there was a large wad of money in the compartment along the inside of the driver’s side door. The police frisked the defendant, finding nothing, and then searched the vehicle, finding a large amount of cocaine.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the physical evidence, specifically the drugs and the cash, arguing that the police officers lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to order him from the vehicle. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court reversed the denial of the defendant’s motion, holding that the police officers lacked justification to order the defendant from the vehicle. The court explained that the officers did not know either party and were relying only on an anonymous tip. Furthermore, the court noted that the officers could not see any exchange between the defendant and the pedestrian. Finally, the court explained that the defendant, while nervous, answered all the officers’ questions and complied with their requests. Taking all this into account, the court determined that there was no basis for the officers to remove the defendant from the vehicle. Thus, the court held that the defendant’s motion should have been granted.

Have You Been Arrested After a Massachusetts Traffic Stop?

If you were arrested and charged with a crime after a traffic stop, contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for immediate assistance. The evidence against you may have been seized in violation of your rights. Attorney Patrick J. Murphy is an experienced criminal defense attorney who provides skillful representation to clients facing all types of serious charges, including Boston drug crimes. He also represents clients facing gun charges, violent crime charges, and OUI/DUI charges. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case, call 617-367-0450 today.