Massachusetts Court Weighs in on Validity of House Arrest as a Condition of Release Pending Appeal

Most people are familiar with the fact that a defendant can file an appeal if they are convicted of a Massachusetts crime. One aspect of the appellate process that is less commonly realized is that the court does not necessarily need to suspend a defendant’s sentence pending appeal.

Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts drug trafficking appeal in which the defendant challenged the court’s decision to keep her on house arrest while her appeal was pending. In that case, the defendant was arrested and charged with several drug offenses back in 2014. At her arraignment, the defendant was released on her own recognizance, meaning she was not required to post bail. House arrest was not a condition of her release, and she showed up at every court date without issue.

At trial, a jury convicted the defendant of drug trafficking, and the judge sentenced her to five years of incarceration. The defendant appealed her sentence, which, if granted, may require a new trial. The defendant asked the court to suspend her sentence while her appeal was pending. In support of her request, the defendant told the court that all her family lives in the area and that she was released on her own recognizance pending trial without ever missing a court date.

The trial court agreed to suspend the defendant’s sentence, setting her new bail at $2,500. However, the court also imposed home confinement, GPS monitoring, and weekly reporting as conditions of release. Under the court’s order, the defendant could only leave her home for medical and legal appointments.

The defendant filed a motion to reconsider, claiming that the condition of house arrest was an illegal search and seizure under Article 14 of the Massachusetts Constitution. In response, the court modified the conditions, allowing the defendant to work. Unsatisfied, the defendant again appealed, seeking to vacate the condition of house arrest altogether.

On appeal, the court concluded that the protections of Article 14 of the Massachusetts Constitution do not extend to the post-conviction context. The court explained that the thrust of Article 14 is directed at arrests, “investigatory detentions, and street-level interactions.” The court noted that, while the protections of Article 14 extended beyond these situations, “the doctrine is not limitless.” The court reasoned that the defendant’s conviction and sentence still technically stand, explaining the inapplicability of Article 14 and supporting the restrictions on the defendant’s freedom.

Have You Been Accused of a Massachusetts Crime?

If you have recently been charged with a Massachusetts crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy for immediate assistance. Attorney Murphy is a dedicated criminal defense lawyer who skillfully handles all types of criminal cases, including Massachusetts drug crimes, weapons charges, allegations of sexual assault and violent crimes, and more. With his help, you can be sure that the prosecution will be held to their high burden, and that your rights will be respected throughout the entire process. To schedule a free consultation, and to speak with Attorney Murphy about how he can help you with your case, call 617-367-0450.

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