Earlier this month, a court of appeals in Massachusetts reviewed the Commonwealth’s appeal of a lower court’s order in a firearms case. Originally, the lower court had granted a defendant’s motion to suppress, agreeing with the defendant that police officers had illegally retrieved a firearm from his person when investigating potentially suspicious activity. On appeal, however, the higher court reversed this ruling and decided that the officers were within their rights when they secured the firearm.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, police officers were on patrol one evening when they saw a pickup truck driving on the wrong side of the road and turning without using a signal. The officers activated their vehicle’s siren and conducted a traffic stop. As they approached, the officers noticed that there were three individuals in the truck; the passenger in the back of the truck ended up being the defendant in this case.
During the interaction between the officers and the passengers, the defendant began acting nervously. He turned his torso away from the officer and began reaching with one arm toward his leg. The officer ordered the defendant to put his hands on the headrest, but the defendant instead reached again toward his leg. The officer then ordered the defendant out of the truck, conducted a pat frisk, and found a firearm on his person. The defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.
When coming before the court, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the firearm evidence, arguing the officer unjustifiably searched him when he stepped out of the vehicle. The lower court granted this motion, and the Commonwealth appealed. On appeal, the Commonwealth argued that the officer was fearful for his safety and was thus justified in searching the defendant for possible weapons.
The higher court considered the Commonwealth’s argument and ultimately agreed. Because of the defendant’s nervous demeanor, the officer had reason to think there might be something he was hiding. When the defendant reached twice for his leg, the officer properly concluded that he might be reaching to hide a gun. Thus, when the officer ordered the defendant to exit the vehicle, he was within his rights to conduct a pat frisk of the defendant.
Given the circumstances, then, the higher court reversed the lower court’s ruling and determined that the incriminating evidence was admissible against the defendant.
Have You Been Charged with Firearm Possession in Massachusetts?
If you or a loved one is facing charges for possessing a firearm in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, give us a call at the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy. We are proud to advocate vigorously on behalf of those who have been accused of a wide range of crimes, and we are committed to standing by you when you need it most. Our litigation strategy is aggressive, experience-based, and personalized, tailored to fit your individual needs. For a free and confidential consultation, call us today at 617-367-0450. We are available 24/7.