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Massachusetts Court Finds No Constitutional Prohibition Against Defendant’s Home Confinement or GPS Monitoring While Awaiting Outcome of Motion for New Trial

If you have been arrested on a felony or misdemeanor charge, a conversation with a Cape Cod criminal defense attorney regarding the details of your situation is crucial in preventing your rights under the United States Constitution from being violated. During the arrest and investigative stage of proceedings, one of the most important of these rights is the right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally speaking, this means that officers must secure a search warrant to search your vehicle or residence unless one of the limited exceptions established by caselaw is present.

During trial, you have a Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel, as well as the right to a jury trial and the right to cross-examine witnesses presented by the government in its case against you. The Sixth Amendment also guarantees those accused of criminal activity the right to be informed of the charges being brought against them and the right to a “speedy” trial.

Once a conviction has taken place, a criminal defendant is protected against cruel and unusual treatment by the Eighth Amendment. Knowing your legal rights at each step of a criminal case is important, as law enforcement must be kept in check lest they overstep their bounds.

Facts of the Case

The defendant in a recent appellate case was indicted on charges of trafficking in heroin in violation of Massachusetts Gen. Laws ch. 94C, § 32E(c) and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute in violation of Massachusetts Gen. Laws ch. 94C, § 32A(c). The case was tried to a jury, and the defendant was convicted on both charges. She was sentenced to five years in prison on the trafficking charge and two years of probation on the possession charge; the sentences were to run concurrently.

The defendant appealed her conviction and was given leave by the intermediate appeals court to file a motion for a new trial. She sought a stay of her sentence while the motion was pending. The trial court granted the motion but imposed certain conditions on the defendant’s release, including home confinement and GPS monitoring (the defendant was to remain in her home except for medical and legal appointments). The defendant sought reconsideration, arguing that the conditions set by the trial judge violated her Fourth Amendment rights. After her request was denied, the defendant appealed.

Outcome of the Appeal

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts affirmed the lower court’s order with regard to the conditions imposed upon the defendant for her release pending the pursuit of a new trial. In the reviewing tribunal’s opinion, the defendant’s confinement to her home was not a “seizure” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. In so holding, the court noted that the condition was imposed pursuant to a valid conviction and a lawful sentence imposed thereupon.

With regard to the defendant’s argument concerning the GPS monitoring, the court agreed that it was a “search” under existing principles of constitutional law. However, the court went on to find that the search was reasonable under the circumstances of the case.

Speak to an Attorney About a Cape Cod Criminal Matter

Facing charges for an alleged misdemeanor or felony can be frightening. So much is at stake if you are convicted: jail time, hefty fines, and a criminal record that could haunt you for the rest of your life. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, we can provide the felony criminal defense that you need in order to have the best chance of a fair outcome in court. To schedule an appointment, call us at 888-262-6664. Always remember: you have the right to remain silent. It is best to talk to a lawyer before giving any type of statement to law enforcement or consenting to a search of your vehicle or home.

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