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Commonwealth v. Oliveira

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

March 28, 2016

Commonwealth
v.
Jemaul R. Oliveira (and a companion case [1] )

         Argued January 8, 2016.

          Complaints received and sworn to in the New Bedford Division of the District Court Department on March 19, 2013.

         Pretrial motions to suppress evidence were heard by Kathryn E. Hand, J.

         An application for leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal was allowed by Duffly, J., in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk, and the appeal was reported by her to the Appeals Court. The Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the case from the Appeals Court.

         Yul-mi Cho, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

         Patrick Levin, Committee for Public Counsel Services, for Jemaul R. Oliveira.

         Christopher DeMayo for Mitchell T. Violet.

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

          OPINION

          [47 N.E.3d 396] Gants, C.J.

          The interlocutory appeal in these companion cases requires us to examine whether it was reasonable for the police to impound a vehicle lawfully parked in a department store lot and conduct an inventory search of the vehicle after the authorized driver of the vehicle was arrested for shoplifting. We conclude that where the driver had offered the police an alternative to

Page 11

impoundment that was lawful and practical under the circumstances, it was unreasonable and thus unconstitutional to impound the vehicle and conduct an inventory search. We therefore affirm the motion judge's allowance of the defendants' motions to suppress the fruits of the inventory search.

          Background.

          The defendants, Mitchell T. Violet and Jemaul R. Oliveira, were charged with shoplifting by concealing merchandise, in violation of G. L. c. 266, § 30A, and unlawfully carrying a firearm, in violation of G. L. c. 269, § 10 ( a ).[2] Both moved to suppress the firearm located during the inventory search of the vehicle that they used to travel to the department store. We summarize the facts found by the motion judge following the evidentiary hearing, supplemented where necessary with undisputed testimony that was implicitly credited by the judge. Commonwealthv.Jones-Pannell, 472 ...


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