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Massachusetts Court of Appeals Partially Reverses Firearm Conviction

In a Cape Cod criminal case, the Commonwealth has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If police acted illegally during the arrest or investigation of the case, it may be possible to have certain evidence excluded at trial.

Even if a defendant is convicted, a case may be reviewed on appeal. It is not unheard of for an appellate court to disagree with a trial court as to whether the evidence introduced at trial was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently reviewed by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, a criminal defendant was convicted of several crimes involving the unlawful possession of a firearm. He sought reversal of his conviction on appeal, arguing, among other things, that police had violated the Fourth Amendment by conducting an illegal search and seizure and that there was insufficient evidence to support certain aspects of his conviction.

The defendant’s arrest was precipitated by a 911 call about a domestic dispute between the defendant and his girlfriend. The 911 caller had allegedly told authorities that the defendant had “mentioned a gun” at some point in the argument. During the resulting encounter between police and the defendant, the defendant was asked whether he had a weapon. In response, he lifted his jacket, exposing the grip of a firearm. The firearm was then removed from the defendant’s possession, and the defendant was arrested because he did not have a license to carry.

Decision of the Appellate Court

The appellate court affirmed in part and vacated in part. The trial court had convicted the defendant of three separate offenses: 1) unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10(a); 2) unlawful possession of a large capacity firearm in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10(m); and 3) unlawful possession of a loaded firearm in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10 (n). The lower court vacated the conviction under § 10(a) because it was a lesser included offense of § 10(m).

After concluding that the investigatory stop made by police was justified under the “reasonable suspicion standard,” the court of appeals agreed with the lower tribunal that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the firearm was loaded. Thus, his conviction under § 10(n) was confirmed. According to the appellate court, however, the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant knew that his firearm was a “large capacity firearm,” and thus his conviction under § 10(m) was vacated. Because the trial court had vacated his conviction under § 10(a) as a lesser included offense of § 10(m), the § 10(a) conviction was reinstated. The defendant was to be re-sentenced on remand of the case to the trial court.

Contact a Cape Cod Attorney About Your Case

If you have been arrested and need advice about your case, the experienced Cape Cod criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can help. Call us at 888-262-6664 to set up a consultation. Remember, you have the right to remain silent and you have the right to consult an attorney of your choosing. If you waive these rights, your own words can (and probably will) be used against you in court later on.

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