Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Guys in Lounge with Pot Draw Youth Violence Strike Force Attention

According to BPD, on July 2nd, 2016, police attention was drawn to a couple guys sitting in a lounge in the communal area of their condominium.  They saw someone come out of an adjoining apartment with some marijuana, which although not legal, was not a criminal offense.  They then decided to search him, and eventually found a firearm.

Of course, the BPD would tell the story a little differently:

  • At about 9:10 PM on Saturday July 2, 2016, officers assigned to the Youth Violence Strike Force made an onsite firearm arrest in the area of 934 Parker Street in Jamaica Plain. The officers were on directed patrol inside the Bromley Heath Housing Development in response to numerous complaints from the community regarding recent gang and drug related activities in the area. When the officers observed a group loitering in a common area of one of the buildings, they approached to speak with them. As the officers were speaking to the group, a person who was known to them, Andre Raper, 23, of Jamaica Plain, walked out of an apartment with a small bag of marijuana in his hand which he quickly put in his pocket upon seeing the officers. It was later determined that the suspect was about to sell drugs to one of the men in the hallway but the presence of the officers interrupted the transaction. Officers performed a pat frisk of the suspect and discovered a one ounce bag of marijuana and several small bags packaged for sale. The suspect was then placed in custody without incident.

It's the same story, but one version makes it sound like some people minding their business in their own place of residence, without committing a crime, were bothered by the police for an exceedingly minor infraction, where the BPD version makes it sound like they just broke up Al Capone couting the money he heisted from a bank.

The fact that they later found a gun has nothing to do with their right to conduct a search and seizue at the moment when they decided to search the person holding the marijuana (which it was LATER determined he intended to sell to someone).  The point is, the police decied to serch this guy in a hallway of the place where he lived because they saw some other occupants sitting around doing nothing wrong. And what they saw this guy doing -- holding less than an ounce of marijuana -- wasn't even a crime.

The people who live in this city, and who are not privileged enough to live in the areas BPD do not consider "high crime" areas (a perfectly subjective designation) are entitled to the same rights as anyone else, including the right to be free from a search of their persons and effects in the absence of evidence of an actual crime (rather than a civil infraction of possessing marijuana).

The police had no right to do anything but write this guy a ticket and take his marijuana away. The rest of the case should be tossed.