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Commonwealth v. Coggeshall

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Plymouth

February 24, 2016

Commonwealth
v.
David A. Coggeshall

         Argued December 7, 2015

          Complaint received and sworn to in the Plymouth Division of the District Court Department on August 20, 2013.

         A motion to dismiss was heard by Kathryn E. Hand, J.

         The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

          Vanessa L. Madge, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Tara B. Ganguly for the defendant.

          Chauncey B. Wood, J. Anthony Downs, Todd Marabella, & Kara Harrington, for Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

         Present: Gants, C.J., Spina, Cordy, Botsford, Duffly, Lenk, & Hines, JJ.

          OPINION

          [46 N.E.3d 20] Spina, J.

          In this case we are asked to decide whether the words " wantonly or recklessly" in G. L. c. 265, § 13L, the statute proscribing reckless endangerment of a child, require proof of a defendant's subjective state of mind.[1] On August 20, 2013, a two-count complaint issued against the defendant from the Plymouth

Page 666

Division of the District Court Department, accusing him of walking on railroad tracks, in violation of G. L. c. 160, § 218, and reckless endangerment of a child by walking on railroad tracks with a child, in violation of G. L. c. 265, § 13L. The defendant filed a pretrial motion to dismiss the count charging him with reckless endangerment. A judge in the District Court ruled that the Commonwealth was required to establish that the defendant actually was aware of the substantial risk of serious bodily injury to which he exposed his child, and that the evidence offered in support of the application for the criminal complaint failed to demonstrate probable cause to believe that [46 N.E.3d 21] the defendant, who was heavily intoxicated at the relevant time, had the mental state required to support the charge. The judge dismissed the count of reckless endangerment.

         On appeal the Commonwealth argues that § 13L does not require proof of a defendant's subjective state of mind, but that, even if it did, sufficient evidence was presented in the application for the criminal complaint to establish probable cause to believe that the defendant had the requisite mental state. We transferred the appeal to this court on our own motion, and now hold that the judge correctly stated the law, but ...


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