Articles Posted in Search & Seizure

cell-phone-trackerThe law is ever-changing. Society changes. Ideologies change. And technology advances. It is often difficult for the court’s to keep up with changes in the world and implementing or amending laws that are fair or outdated. But this is particularly so when it comes to cell phone technology and how to balance or implement the appropriate legal safeguards so that our constitutional protections are balanced and protected in every aspect of life. In recent years, the Massachusetts courts have been at the forefront of novel and legal issues as it pertains to cell phone privacy protections.

Several years ago, Massachusetts appellate courts addressed the issue of whether a warrant is required for the police to obtain a person’s cell site location information, or “CSLI” (the data from which your cell phone connects to a cell phone tower when a call is made, thereby providing an approximate location of the device at the time of the call). The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that a warrant satisfying the standard of probable cause was required for the government to obtain CSLI data.

But what about real time data or “pinging” of one’s cell phone to obtain the precise location of a device? Continue Reading ›

In a recent decision concerning whether the seizure and resulting inventory search of a car by the police, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that, in circumstances where persons are arrested and their vehicle may be towed and inventoried, a practical alternative to the seizure and impoundment of the car could render its impoundment unreasonable and unlawful. See Commonwealth v. Jemaul R. Oliveira.

In this case, Mitchell Violet and Jemaul Oliveira were arrested for shoplifting from a department store. When questioned, they told the police that the merchandise was in a bag in their car and also gave the police the keys and permission to retrieve the bag from the car. The police took the keys, unlocked the car and retrieved the bag from the back seat.

After advising them that the car would be impounded and inventoried, the defendants appeared “agitated” and Violet requested that he have his girlfriend come pick up the car, as it was also registered in her name. The police rejected this request, conducted an inventory search of the car, and in the glove compartment, found a loaded firearm.

Both were then charged with Shoplifting by Concealing Merchandise and Unlawfully Carrying a Firearm.

Continue Reading ›

In the recent decision in Florida v. Jardines, the United States Supreme Court considered whether police could lawfully use a drug sniffing dog to search a the curtilage of a person’s home.

In a unanimous decision, the United States Supreme Court held that law enforcement must apply for and obtain a search warrant before they can enter the private property of a person for the purposes of gathering evidence of a crime.

In this particular case, after receiving a tip, the police conducted surveillance of the defendant’s home. Officers eventually approached the house with a drug-sniffing canine dog, who sniffed the defendant’s porch area and front door. After the canine signaled positive for drugs, the police used that information and applied for a search warrant and eventually arrested the defendant for drug trafficking.

A Hyde Park man was arrested in Lynn early yesterday morning for allegedly dealing drugs on Washington Street in Lynn, and within a school zone. Wilford G. Wright, 41, was arrested by Lynn Police Officers early Thursday morning and charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine; School Zone Violation; Assault & Battery on a Police Officer; Resisting Arrest; and Trespassing.

Lynn Police Officers alleged that Wrigth was standing in a doorway and allegedly conducting a drug transaction with 2 other men. As the Lynn Police Officers approached, Wright allegedly tucked something in his pocket and walked into the building.

Despite several requests from the police to stop, Wright ignored them and only stated “I’m just going to my friend’s apartment.” Ignoring officers’ commands, a Lynn Police Officer physically grabbed Wright and attempted to pat frisk him. At that time, he tried run away from the police and in so doing, pushed one of the officers.

Jesse Bumbaca of Waltham, and Marino Spirakis of Peabody, were arrested last evening for allegedly engaging in a drug transaction involving almost 1,000 oxycodone pills.

The Boston Police Department reports that Drug Officers were investigation a Kingston Street, Boston, address where Bumbaca was allegedly running a drug business. Sometime around 7:00 p.m. last evening, officers report they observed Spirakis park at that address and Bumbaca came out and handed him a black box. There was no indication that the Boston Police Officers could see what was in that black box, nor was there any elaboration as to why they believed that Bumbaca handing Spirakis that black box constituted a drug transaction.

After both men left the area in separate cars, Boston and Massachusetts State Police Officers stopped Bumbaca’s car at the Regatta Hotel in Cambridge. Police Officers seized a backpack containing 950 oxycodone pills, and $8,000. In the meantime, other Boston and Massachusetts State Police Officers stopped Spirakis’ car, seizing the black box which was found to contain $52,000.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s recent decision of Commonwealth v. Porter P., a juvenile, focused on whether a person temporarily staying in room in a homeless transitional center is entitled to a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ against unlawful searches and searches. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in a 5-2 decision, ruled that they do!

By way of background, the juvenile defendant and his mother had moved into a room at the Roxbury Multi-Service Center Family House Shelter in March 2006, which provides temporary housing for homeless families and assists them towards securing a permanent home. A few months later, the shelter’s director heard rumors that the juvenile defendant had a gun and then contacted the Boston Police Department. The next morning, five Boston Police Officers arrived at the shelter, and with the permission from the Roxbury shelter’s directors, searched the juvenile’s room and found a .40 caliber Glock firearm. The juvenile was immediately arrested for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm; Unlawful Possession of Ammunition; and Delinquency.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in ruling for the juvenile defendant, found that

“the room that the juvenile and his mother shared at the shelter was a transitional living space, but it was nonetheless their home…”.

As a result, they had a reasonable expectation of privacy in their ‘home’ at the shelter, and the Boston Police Officers’ search, without a warrant or consent by them, was violative of their 4th Amendment Right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures.

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