Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester
Heard: January 6, 2017.
received and sworn to in the Fitchburg Division of the
District Court Department on May 18, 2015.
pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Christopher
P. LoConto, J., and a question of law was reported by him to
the Appeals Court.
Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the
case from the Appeals Court.
H. Lazar-Moore, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Merritt Schnipper (Robert M. Cassesso, Jr., also present) for
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, &
question before us was reported by a judge in the District
Court: "Whether G. L. c. 209A authorizes the police to
effectuate a motor vehicle stop to serve a civil abuse
prevention order?" We answer the question in the
negative. We conclude that G. L. c. 209A requires law
enforcement to take reasonable measures to serve abuse
prevention orders. In order for the service of the orders to
be reasonable, the manner of service must comply with the
terms of the Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of
hearing regarding a motion to suppress evidence obtained
during a motor vehicle stop, the motion judge found the
following facts. On May 16, 2015, a Lunenberg police sergeant
was parked outside a local bar. In the course of randomly
checking the registration status and owner information of
vehicles parked outside the bar, he inquired about a license
plate number registered to Richard Sanborn, the defendant.
The sergeant recalled that a civil abuse restraining order
issued pursuant to G. L. c. 209A had not yet been served on
the defendant. Another officer from the Lunenberg police
department delivered the restraining order to the sergeant.
Subsequently the defendant left the bar, entered his vehicle,
and drove away.
sergeant followed the defendant and eventually stopped his
vehicle. Based on the sergeant's observations of the
defendant after the stop, the defendant was placed under
arrest for operating while under the influence of liquor.
defendant moved to suppress evidence relating to, and
discovered as a result of, the stop, arguing that his Fourth
Amendment and art. 14 rights had been violated. At the
hearing on the defendant's motion, the sergeant testified
that he stopped the defendant after observing multiple lane
violations. The motion judge discredited that testimony,
however, and found that the purpose of the stop was to serve
the abuse prevention order. The judge granted the
defendant's motion and reported the question above to the
Appeals Court pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 34, as amended,
442 Mass. 1501 (2004). We transferred the case to this court
on our own motion.