Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlesex
Heard: November 9, 2016.
found and returned in the Superior Court Department on August
12, 2014. Pretrial motions to suppress evidence were heard by
Thomas P. Billings, J.
application for leave to prosecute an interlocutory appeal
was allowed by Botsford, 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 granted an
application for direct appellate review.
Randall F. Maas, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Jessica LaClair for the defendant.
Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy,
& Budd, JJ.
a report of a "smell like drugs" emanating from the
apartment of the defendant, police made two warrantless
entries into his apartment. Based on observations of
paraphernalia related to the manufacture of crystal
methamphetamine, the police then obtained a warrant. The
defendant was subsequently arrested and charged with, among
other things, drug related offenses.
defendant filed two motions in the Superior Court --one to
suppress the evidence seized during the execution of the
search warrant and another to suppress statements he made to
police following his arrest. The judge granted both motions
after an evidentiary hearing. With respect to the first
motion, the judge determined that no emergency justified the
warrantless entries, without which the Commonwealth could not
establish the probable cause necessary for the subsequent
warrant. Regarding the second motion, the judge concluded the
defendant's statements to the police were the "fruit
of" the defendant's unlawful arrest.
Commonwealth appealed from the judge's decision. A single
justice in the county court allowed the Commonwealth's
application for interlocutory review and reported the matter
to the Appeals Court. We subsequently allowed the
defendant's motion for direct appellate review. We
The motion judge made the following factual findings, which
we accept absent clear error. Commonwealth v.
Entwistle, 463 Mass. 205, 209 (2012), cert, denied, 133
S.Ct. 945 (2013). We review de novo the judge's
application of constitutional principles to the facts.
Commonwealth v. Phillips, 452 Mass. 617, 624 (2008).
11, 2014, the Watertown police received a telephone call from
the defendant's neighbor at a multifamily residential
property. The neighbor reported a "smell like
drugs" coming from the defendant's apartment. The
police did not respond to the call until the next day, when a
detective called the neighbor. The neighbor complained that
the odor was causing her to suffer headaches and was
adversely affecting her dog. She further described the odor
as "skunky" and "minty." She also stated
that the windows of the neighbor's apartment were
"sealed, " and there was a bright light shining in
one of the defendant's apartment's rooms. The police
did not visit the apartment on June 12.
13, 2014, two detectives traveled to the apartment building,
where they met with the neighbor who had complained two days
earlier. The night before the detectives arrived, the
neighbor spent the night elsewhere to avoid further exposure
to the odor.
the detectives knocked on the defendant's door, no one
answered. The detectives could not see inside the
defendant's apartment from the sidewalk because the
windows were covered from inside the apartment. Beneath a
running air conditioner extending from one of the
apartment's windows, the detectives smelled a strong
complaining neighbor informed the detectives that two people,
the defendant and his girl friend, lived in the apartment.
The two usually left the apartment together in the morning,
but that morning, the neighbor had seen the defendant leave
alone. The detectives obtained the girl friend's cellular
telephone number through the building's owner. Unable to