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Commonwealth v. Sanchez

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

March 23, 2016

Commonwealth
v.
Luis Sanchez

         Argued February 5, 2016.

          Indictment found and returned in the Superior Court Department on September 28, 2012.

         A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Renée P. Dupuis, J., and the case was tried before Robert J. Kane, J.

         Brad P. Bennion for the defendant.

         Tara L. Blackman, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

         Present: Green, Hanlon, & Henry, JJ.

          OPINION

          [47 N.E.3d 444] Green, J.

          Among various challenges to his conviction of trafficking in one hundred grams or more of " crack" cocaine, in violation of G. L. c. 94C, § 32E, the defendant contends that a search warrant authorizing a search of his apartment did not extend to a free-standing shed in the back yard outside the three-

Page 250

unit apartment building.[1] We conclude that the motion judge correctly concluded that the shed was a part of the curtilage of the apartment, so that the search authorized by the warrant properly extended to the shed. Discerning no merit in the defendant's other claims of error, we affirm.

          Background.

          We summarize the findings of the motion judge on the defendant's motion to suppress, reserving other facts for our discussion of the defendant's other claims. On August 28, 2012, New Bedford police Officer Jason Gangi and other members of the New Bedford police department executed a search warrant authorizing a search of the third-floor apartment at 101 Coffin Avenue and any persons present. The building at 101 Coffin Avenue is a multifamily dwelling consisting of three apartments. Police set up surveillance at the target location. Two vehicles approached the location, and the defendant was a passenger in one of the vehicles. Police stopped the defendant and obtained a set of keys from him.[2] Using a key from the set, police opened the door to the third-floor apartment. Within minutes after gaining entry to the apartment, Officer Gangi went to the back yard to search. The entire back yard was fenced. While in the yard, Officer Gangi discovered a locked shed and, using one of the keys on the key ring obtained from the defendant, unlocked a padlock on the shed door and gained access to the interior of the shed. Inside the shed, Officer Gangi observed a black BMW motor vehicle, a dirt bike, some tools, and a shopping bag. Officer Gangi determined that another key on the key ring obtained from the defendant fit the BMW. Officer Gangi also found and seized a substantial quantity of cocaine [47 N.E.3d 445] hidden above a ceiling panel within the shed.

         Among other items found in and seized from the third-floor apartment were rent receipts indicating that the defendant rented the shed from the owner of the apartment building. In the affidavit in support of the application for the search warrant ...


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