Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

BPD Firearm/Armed Career Criminal Arrest Headed for Suppression

On April 17, 2016, BPD officers made an arrest for unlicensed carrying of a firearm.  Apparently, the individual also had previous convictions resulting in charges of being an "armed career criminal."  Depending on whether the individual placed under arrest is alleged to be a level 1, 2 or 3, he could be looking at mandatory sentencing of up to 15 to 20 years.  Unfortunately for BPD, however, if their article describing the circumstances of the arrest is any indication of what actually happened, the case is headed precisely nowhwere.

From the BPD report:

"At about 11:30 AM on Sunday April 17, 2016, officers . . . observed a motor vehicle with heavily tinted windows . . . with an unidentified operator behind the wheel. Officers knew that this specific car was owned by a person known to them who was wanted on an outstanding felony warrant. . . . Officers approached the vehicle on both sides and announced their presence. The driver, who was not the owner of the vehicle as originally thought, put his window down a few inches and greeted the officer at his door side by name. The driver, . . . and the officer were very familiar to one another due to numerous interactions over the years. As the two were speaking, the officer noticed that the suspect repeatedly grabbed at his clothing in an odd manner and would not comply with numerous commands to keep his hands in plain sight, nor would he lower his window any further. Officers asked the suspect to exit the vehicle multiple times but he declined. When the suspect’s behavior became more erratic in nature and the officers began to feel threatened by his actions, they breached the vehicle and successfully removed the suspect. As the suspect exited the vehicle, they felt a metal object in his jacket pocket which was later determined to be a loaded Lorcin .380 caliber model L380."

Here's the problem.  The police have the right to assume that the person driving the car is the registered owner, and where they know the owner has open warrants, they have the right to stop the car.  But, in this case, once the driver put the window down far enough for the officer to realize that (a) he knew the driver, and (b) he knew the driver was not the registered owner who had open warrants, all justifications for the stop completely evaporated.  The officer then continues to insist that the driver roll down his window -- which the officer had no reason to do.  More than that, the officer told the operator to get out, which the officer absolutely had no authority to do. 

Now, the officer will likely suggest that the operator's "repeatedly grabbed at his clothing" made him worried that the operator was armed.  Fair enough, and the law may even be on his side on that one, but the point is that by that time the stop should have ended, and any concern that the officer had for his own safety is premised on his extending the unlawful stop. 

There are lots of close cases out there.  If this is one of them, it's only because of facts not described in the BPD posting, becuase if what they posted really is what happened, that case is on a fast track to getting tossed.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a firearms-related offense, call our office immediately to discuss the potential defenses that may be available to avoid the serious mandatory minimum sentences routinely imposed by the courts in Massachusetts in such cases.