In a recent firearm case from a Massachusetts court, the defendant’s motion to suppress incriminating evidence was denied. A lower court had originally granted the defendant’s motion, deciding the police officer that originally stopped him did not have sufficient reason to suspect that he was carrying a gun. Disagreeing with the lower court, the higher court reversed the ruling and ultimately denied the defendant’s motion.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, one evening at approximately 2:00am, a police officer was patrolling in his car when he received a radio dispatch telling him of a ShotSpotter alert nearby. ShotSpotter devices go off when there is an audible gunshot, and when the devices are activated, they provide police officers with a sense of the area where the possible gunshot took place. Once the officer heard about the ShotSpotter, he was able to drive to the area identified by the device. As he was driving, the office received several more reports of ShotSpotter alerts and then began to hear gunshots for himself.
In the area identified by the ShotSpotter, the police officer only saw one person – the defendant in this case. According to the officer, the defendant appeared as though he was intoxicated. The officer immediately told the defendant to lie on the ground until another office could arrive. Once the second officer came on the scene, the two officers handcuffed the defendant, pat him down, and found a firearm in his right pocket.
The defendant was charged with several firearm offenses. He filed a motion to suppress the firearm, saying the police officer did not have sufficient reason to search him in the first place. The lower court accepted this motion to suppress, ruling that the defendant had a right to privacy. Since the police officer had not seen him do anything wrong, said the lower court, it was unreasonable for the officer to order him down, handcuff him, and pat him down.
The higher court, however, disagreed with the lower court’s ruling, concluding that it was reasonable for the officer to conduct the stop of the defendant. This court took into account the fact that the officer was responding to a ShotSpotter request, thus he had reason to believe that anyone in the area the device indicated could be carrying a firearm. It was also true that the officer heard gunshots himself, so it was reasonable for him to infer that the devices’ alerts were in response to actual gunshots, not to false alarms.
Taking these factors together, the court concluded that the officer did have reason to stop the defendant. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s ruling on the motion to suppress and decided the motion would be denied.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Massachusetts After an Interaction with a Police Officer?
If you have been criminally charged for gun possession in Massachusetts and you think a police officer has treated you unfairly in the process of charging you, call the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy. Our team will work with you to explore your options and craft a defense strategy that puts your individualized needs front and center. For a free consultation, call us at 617-367-0450.