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Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

There is a large branch of case law devoted to the issues of when a police officer can pull over a vehicle, when that vehicle can be searched, and when the occupants thereof can be made to exit the vehicle. This body of the law holds many general principles, but oftentimes the outcome of, say, a Cape Cod criminal defense case, is dependent on the specific facts presented therein.

For example, what prompted the officer to pull over the vehicle? What did he or she observe when approaching the vehicle? Was any additional information obtained from nearby witnesses?

Facts of the Case

In a recent criminal case considered on appeal, the defendant had been convicted on charges of unlawfully carrying a firearm (and unlawfully carrying a loaded firearm) in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10(a) and (n). He appealed, arguing that it had been error for the arresting officer to order him to get out of the vehicle in which he had been riding based on information obtained by a private security guard from employees of a nearby nightclub.

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Questions concerning the legality of searches and seizures can play heavily in the resolution of a Cape Cod criminal defense case. With appropriate legal representation, it is sometimes possible to get potentially incriminating evidence excluded from the jury’s consideration at trial.

Without this evidence, the Commonwealth’s case may quickly fall apart. This can result in a plea bargain on lesser charges, or, in some cases, in outright dismissal of the case. Of course, the Commonwealth will usually fight hard against such a result, so it is important that the defendant be represented by an attorney well-versed in this area of the law.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the defendant was arrested on numerous drug charges in 2009. He filed a motion to suppress certain evidence concerning calls made to his cell phones – and intercepted by police while he was in custody – relating to the possible sale of illegal substances. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was convicted on multiple charges. He appealed, seeking relief from his convictions.

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Many Cape Cod criminal defense cases revolve around the issue of searches and seizures. Police sometimes overstep their bounds during stop-and-frisk incidents, arrests, and the execution of search warrants.

Sometimes, however, the issue is not so much whether a search itself was legal but, rather, whether the evidence that was found by police during the search was of a particular type or located in a place such that a given statute is applicable. Because reasonable minds can disagree about such matters, it is not unusual for such cases not only to proceed to trial (rather than be settled via a plea agreement) but, sometimes, through the appellate process, as well.

Facts of the Case

The defendant in a recent case was charged with carrying a dangerous weapon on his person or under his control in a vehicle in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10(b). The charge was brought after  a woman, with whom the defendant was apparently in a relationship of some sort, made a complaint to police, and police began searching for the defendant. The defendant and the complainant were located inside a truck and camper that was parked in the parking lot of a large retail store. At the time police approached the defendant, who was inside the camper, the camper was hooked up to a running generator. According to the complainant, the pair had been living in the camper for several days at that location.

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A great number of Cape Cod criminal cases revolve around the issue of whether evidence that the government seeks to introduce at the trial of the case was legally obtained. The defendant may argue that a particular search was violative of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. If the court agrees that police violated the defendant’s constitutional rights with regard to a certain search, the evidence obtained through that illegal search must be excluded from the jury’s consideration because it is the “fruit” of the “poisonous tree.” Without the evidence that can no longer be submitted at trial, the government’s case against the defendant may be much weaker, or perhaps non-existent.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the defendant was arrested on a drug trafficking charge. He filed a motion to suppress evidence found in his vehicle by police, insisting that the evidence was the fruit of an illegal search. According to the defendant, the exit order given to him by the police officer who stopped him was illegal, and thus the evidence found by the officer after the defendant stepped out of the vehicle should have been excluded. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress, and he appealed to the intermediate appellate court. That court reversed the lower tribunal’s denial of the defendant’s motion. The Commonwealth sought further review from the state’s highest court.

Decision of the Court

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the court of appeals’ reversal of the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that exit order was not lawfully issued and that, therefore, the evidence obtained by the search should have been suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree.

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Among the most important protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution is the freedom from unlawful searches and seizures. Of course, the concept of what is, or is not, an unreasonable search or seizure is subject to much interpretation.

In a Cape Cod operating under the influence (or “OUI”) case, the question of whether a search and seizure was legal often hinges on whether the arresting officer acted in accordance with the law in stopping the defendant – in other words, did he or she have probable cause for the stop?

If a reviewing court determines that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity prior to stopping the defendant, it is likely that any evidence obtained during the stop (and any search and seizure executed in accordance therewith) will be deemed inadmissible at trial.

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There are many instances in which life can change in a split second – a car accident, an injury at work, or, perhaps most unsettling of all, being arrested. In any of these events, it is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, but this especially true in the case of being accused of a crime by a police officer. A Cape Cod criminal defense attorney can explain your legal rights and help you defend yourself in court. In the meantime, it is very important that you not speak to police about your case. You do have the right to remain silent, and anything you voluntarily say can be used to convict you later on.

Facts of the Case

The defendant in a recent appellate case was a man whose mother was pulled over allegedly failing to display a valid inspection sticker. As the officer approached the vehicle, he noticed that the defendant – who was a passenger in the right front seat – was not wearing a seat belt. Intending to ticket the defendant for this offense, the officer asked the defendant for his identification. As the defendant was giving the officer his identification, a dark-colored object, which the officer believed could possibly be a weapon, fell between the car seat and the console. After backup arrived, the officer ordered the defendant to step out of the car, arrested him on unrelated but outstanding warrants, and searched the vehicle. A loaded .38 caliber snub-nosed revolver was found.

The defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of a loaded firearm. At trial, the defendant’s mother testified that the gun was hers and that the defendant had no knowledge that it was in the vehicle. Nevertheless, the defendant was convicted on both charges. He appealed, alleging that the motion judge should have granted his motion to suppress the firearm, the evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendant was aware that the firearm in question was loaded, the prosecutor made comments in his closing argument that created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice, and the trial judge did not instruct the jury that the Commonwealth was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the firearm was loaded.

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If you are facing prosecution for an alleged criminal act in Cape Cod or elsewhere in Massachusetts, it is important that you know and understand your constitutional rights.  A skillful legal advocate can review the facts and ultimately have a profound impact on your Cape Cod criminal defense case.

One of the rights that is generally afforded under the United States Constitution is the right not to be put on trial a second time for the same criminal offense. Of course, there are some conditions that come with the Double Jeopardy Clause, some of which are long-standing and some of which are still being litigated today.

The United States Supreme Court recently weighed in on a case in which a defendant urged that the clause prevented him from being convicted in both state and federal court for the same basic offense.

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One of the most fundamental rights of the defendant in a criminal case is the right to a trial by jury. A seasoned Cape Cod criminal defense attorney can help make sure that this and other important rights are protected. This is very important because a biased, prejudiced, or tainted juror can wreak havoc on what is supposed to be a determination by a “fair and impartial” jury of the defendant’s peers. A knowledgeable defense lawyer can also make sure that the defendant’s other constitutional and legal rights were not violated during the arrest process and, if necessary, file a motion in limine to exclude potentially inadmissible evidence.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the defendant was a man who was accused of several crimes relating to the illegal possession and improper storage of firearms and ammunition. When the matter was tried to a jury, one of the jurors was excused during deliberations because she told a court officer that she could not continue to deliberate because she was upset by other jurors being “argumentative.” The juror also mentioned that she was emotional due to health issues being suffered by some members of her family. The trial judge opted to replace the juror with an alternate, and the deliberations continued. After the defendant was found guilty, he appealed. The intermediate court of appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction. He sought further review from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Decision of the Court

The supreme court vacated the judgments entered against the defendant, concluding that the juror had been discharged for reasons that were “not purely personal” and that, thus, her dismissal was prejudicial error. The court went on to conclude that, because there was sufficient evidence for the trial court to deny the defendant’s motion for a required finding of not guilty, the appropriate thing to do was to remand the case for further proceedings.
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As technology evolves, so does Massachusetts criminal law. Just as those who intentionally engage in criminal activity often rely on technology such as cell phones to conduct their business, police officers and others in law enforcement increasingly rely on information obtained through technology that, just a decade or two ago, may not have even existed.

When an arrest is made based on information obtained through the use of a technological device, the courts must consider whether police acted lawfully in light of the 4th Amendment prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures, as well as other relevant legal principles.

Facts of the Case

In an appellate case arising from a decision of the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk, the defendant was a man who was indicted on a charge of trafficking cocaine in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 94C, § 32E(b) after police found cocaine and cash in a crawlspace located inside his residence. This evidence was found during a warrantless search, to which the defendant consented after police obtained his location through use of the defendant’s cell site location information. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the cocaine and cash on the grounds that they had been the fruit of an illegal search and seizure.

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Under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, police officers are required to obtain a warrant in order to execute a search and seizure of a criminal defendant’s home in most situations. Whether or not an exception exists to this general rule is a frequent issue in a Massachusetts criminal case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, police entered a building that contained four apartments. They did not have a warrant but were acting on information supplied by a 9-1-1 caller to the effect that she had seen some men go into the building with a gun. There had been several home invasions in town, although the record did not specify whether those events were in the same neighborhood. While they were conducting “protective sweep” of the building, police officers observed what appeared to be illegal narcotics. After the suspects were arrested in a different part of the building, officers obtained a search warrant for the apartment unit in which the drugs were seen, and the resident thereof was indicted.

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