In a recent case before an appeals court in Massachusetts, the defendant argued his motion to suppress incriminating evidence should have been granted by the lower court. According to the defendant, the officer that found a firearm on his person unlawfully searched him, and thus the evidence should not have been considered admissible by the trial court. On appeal, the higher court looked at the case law and ultimately determined that the officer was within his rights when he conducted the search, and that thus the firearm was admissible after all.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, police officers were executing a valid search warrant at the home of the defendant’s brother-in-law one evening in September 2018. The officers were investigating the brother-in-law for possession of illegal drugs and firearms, and they did not realize that the defendant also lived at the residence as they conducted their search. The brother-in-law was present for the officers searched his home, and he willingly cooperated throughout the process.
Midway through the officers’ search, the defendant opened the locked front door and walked into the home. One of the officers immediately approached the defendant and grabbed his wrists, afraid that he would be a threat to the rest of the search. While the officer was putting the defendant in handcuffs, he felt an object around the defendant’s waistband and found a firearm.
The defendant was charged with possessing an unlicensed firearm. As the court reviewed his case, the defendant argued that the officer’s search was unwarranted and that the evidence should be suppressed. The trial court denied this motion, and the defendant appealed.
On appeal, the defendant cited case law providing that when an officer is executing a search warrant, that officer can detain occupants of the premises while he or she is searching the home. According to the defendant, this kind of detention only extends to actual occupants of the premises where the officer is searching. Here, the officer had no way of knowing that the defendant lived at his brother-in-law’s home. Thus, the officer really did not have permission to detain him, and the fact that the officer found the gun was the product of an unlawful search.
The court agreed that the officer could not be sure if the defendant was actually an occupant of the brother-in-law’s home when he walked through the door. It was also true, however, that when the officer saw the defendant walk through the previously locked door, he could reasonably infer that the defendant lived in the home. Making a snap judgment, it made sense for the officer to then detain the defendant, which in turn led to the officer finding the firearm.
Ruling that the search was reasonable, the court denied the defendant’s appeal.
Are You Facing Firearm Charges in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges for firearm possession in Massachusetts, give us a call at the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy. We are committed to serving and protecting you, and we will fight for the best possible outcome in your case. For a free and confidential consultation, call us today at 617-367-0450.