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Commonwealth v. Martin

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Norfolk

November 25, 2016

COMMONWEALTH
v.
PIERCE A. MARTIN.

          Heard: September 7, 2016.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Quincy Division of the District Court Department on October 19, 2010.

         A motion to withdraw a guilty plea, filed on October 3, 2012, was heard by Mary Hogan Sullivan, J., and motions for the return of seized property, filed on November 21, 2012, and July 22, 2013, were heard by Mark S. Coven, J.

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

          Ilse Nehring for the defendant.

          Susanne M. O'Neil, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.

          HINES, J.

         In October, 2011, the defendant, Pierce A. Martin, pleaded guilty in the Quincy Division of the District Court Department to possession of a class D substance (second offense). At sentencing, the plea judge imposed a one-year term of probation and, as mandated by statute, the probation supervision fees (G. L. c. 276, § 87A) and the victim-witness assessment (G. L. c. 258B, § 8). In October, 2012, after the revelation of misconduct at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute (Hinton laboratory), a judge granted the defendant's unopposed motion to withdraw his guilty plea on the ground that Annie Dookhan, [1] the subsequently discredited analyst at the center of the misconduct allegations, performed the analysis of the substances seized during the defendant's arrest. See Commonwealth v. Scott, 467 Mass. 336 (2014). The Commonwealth entered a nolle prosequi on the underlying complaint. Thereafter, the defendant filed a motion for return of property, including probation supervision fees ($780) paid during the term of probation and the victim-witness assessment (fifty dollars), claiming a right to recoup these amounts where the conviction, in the defendant's view, was vacated on constitutional grounds.[2] The judge denied the motion, and the defendant appealed. We transferred the case from the Appeals Court on our own motion. We conclude that there is no statutory authority for the return of the probation supervision fees and the victim-witness assessment paid by the defendant. Therefore, we affirm the denial of the defendant's motion for return of property.

         Background.

          We summarize the relevant facts from the record. On October 18, 2010, Quincy police officers arrested the defendant following a motor vehicle stop. Incident to the arrest, the police seized a large plastic bag containing seven smaller plastic bags filled with what appeared to be marijuana and $109 in United States currency. The next day, a five-count complaint issued charging the defendant with possession of a class D substance (marijuana) with intent to distribute, subsequent offense, G. L. c. 94C, § 32C (b); commission of a drug offense in a school zone, G. L. c. 94C, § 32J; unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, G. L. c. 90, § 10; failure to stop, G. L. c. 98, § 9; and failure to wear a seatbelt, G. L. c. 90, § 13A.

         On October 13, 2011, the defendant pleaded guilty to possession of a class D substance, subsequent offense. In contemplation of a guilty plea, the Commonwealth dismissed the school zone violation and filed the remaining charges with the defendant's consent. The plea judge imposed the defendant's recommended sentence: a one-year supervised term of probation, with conditions requiring the defendant to abstain from drugs and submit to random drug testing. In addition, the judge imposed statutorily mandated fees including a one-time victim-witness assessment of fifty dollars, as well as a monthly probation supervision fee of sixty dollars and a monthly victim services surcharge of five dollars (collectively, probation fees) .

         On January 4, 2012, a violation of probation notice issued for the defendant. On August 28, 2012, the defendant waived his right to a probation hearing and stipulated to the violation for failing to comply with probation conditions including drug testing, payment of the monthly probation fees, and reporting to his probation officer.[3] The plea judge extended the defendant's probation for one year on the same terms, and imposed office of community corrections "Level III" supervision with global positioning system monitoring for ninety days.

         On October 31, 2012, a judge allowed the defendant's unopposed motion to withdraw his guilty plea based on Dookhan's involvement as the analyst of the substance seized from the defendant during his arrest. The Commonwealth entered a nolle prosequi for the underlying complaint "in the interest of justice in light of the ongoing criminal investigation into the mishandling of evidence at ...


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