On April 24, 2008, while on patrol in the area of Route 95 southbound a State Trooper saw a gray Mercedes-Benz, traveling approximately five feet from the car in front of it. The Trooper's “attention was drawn” to the “very short distance” between the cars. According to the police report, “as the Mercedes traveled along in the left lane it drew closer and closer to the Ford. The Ford pulled into the middle lane and the Mercedes travel past it. The Mercedes was subsequently stopped.” The Trooper requested the operator’s license and registration. The operator produced his passport and informed the Trooper that he did not have his license in his possession. At that time, the Trooper asked the defendant to step to the rear of the Mercedes. According to the police report, the defendant stated that another police department took his license when he was arrested the previous week. The Trooper then asked the defendant what he was arrested for and he allegedly stated that he was arrested “for distribution of Oxy.”
According to the report, when the defendant was “at the rear of the vehicle,” the Trooper “pat-frisked” the defendant. During this procedure, the Trooper felt what he believed was a “round vile” in the defendant's right front pocket. The Trooper asked the defendant what he was feeling and the defendant allegedly stated, “It’s a bottle of Oxy and Suboxone in it.” The Trooper retrieved the glass vile from the defendant's pocket and claimed to visually confirm that the tablets were Oxycontin. During the search of the Mercedes the Trooper located a silver screen/grater with “white powder residue” along its edges. The Trooper asked the defendant what the metal screen was and he allegedly responded that it “was a screen . . use[d] to shave Oxy into powder . . . to snort.”
The Commonwealth often questions a suspect and acquires inculpatory statements that are used against him or her at trial. A defendant's statement can be the most compelling evidence used by the Government to secure a guilty verdict. In any case where the police have secured a statement of the defendant, a motion to suppress the statement MUST be filed. It is well established that in order for a defendant's statement to be introduced at trial the Commonwealth must demonstrate that the statement was given freely, voluntarily and intelligently. Before the police question a suspect they must inform him of rights commonly referred to as the "Miranda Warnings." These warnings include that a suspect be told of his or her right to remain silent, that anything that is said can be used against him or her and the right to an attorney and if he or she cannot afford one the state will appoint one.
However, Miranda warnings are not required for every discussion between law enforcement and a suspect. The requirement of the police to inform the defendant of Miranda Warnings is triggered if a suspect is in custody and the police question or interrogate him or her. Relative to determining custody for purposes of Miranda warnings, “[t]he crucial question is whether, considering all circumstances, a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have believed that [she] was in custody.’ Commonwealth v. Damiano, 422 Mass. 10, 13 (1996), citing Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 442 (1984). The question of whether a custodial interrogation has taken place is largely subjective. Commonwealth v. Bryant, 390 Mass. 79, 736 (1984). The Bryant court established four factors to assist in the determination. Id. at 737. The SJC stated that it is rare that any single factor is conclusive. Id. When considered as a whole, those factors weigh heavily in determining that the defendant was subject of custodial interrogation almost immediately. The factors include:
1. The place of the investigation;
2. Whether the investigation focused on the subject;
3. The nature of the investigation (whether led by police or suspect and whether they did so aggressively);
4. Whether the defendant was free to end the interview by leaving. Id.
An interrogation has been defined as: “any words or actions on the part of the police that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect. Commonwealth v. Coleman, 49 Mass.App.Ct. 150,155 (2000), citing Rhode Island v. Innes, 446 U.S. 291 (1980).
Attorney McCarthy applied this analysis to the above case and argued that the defendant’s encounter with the police was most certainly a custodial interrogation. The police officer was in full uniform and in a marked cruiser when he pulled over the car that the defendant was driving. The officer engaged the lights on the cruiser in order to pull the defendant over. The questioning on the side of the road by a uniformed state police officer in a marked cruiser illustrates that the defendant was not free to leave. Furthermore, as the defendant was the only person in the car the investigation focused on him. The questioning was led by the police officer and he was aggressive. At no time was the defendant free to leave when he was questioned by the police. The defendant was in custody at the time he was questioned by the officer.
The judge agreed and suppressed the defendant's statements which prevented the Assistant District Attorney from introducing the statements against the defendant at trial. The filing of a motion to suppress statements is critical to the successful defense of an individual that spoke to the police. Retaining an experienced and successful Boston area attorney to successfully litigate a motion to suppress statements can be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction. Call Attorney Kathleen M. McCarthy today to defend you against any type crime from drug offenses, larcenies and assault and battery to rape and breaking and entering.