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Commonwealth v. Martin

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

July 6, 2017


          Heard: April 1, 2016.

         Complaint received and sworn to in the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department on April 12, 2012.

         After transfer to the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department, a pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Michael J. Coyne, J., and the case was heard by Thomas C. Horgan, J.

          Chase A. Marshall for the defendant.

          Kathryn Leary, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Meade, Wolohojian, & Maldonado, JJ.

          MALDONADO, J.

         In this case, we consider whether the warrantless entry by police into a residence was justified where the entry was made while chasing the defendant, who fled from police during a stop for a civil infraction of marijuana possession. Concluding that these circumstances do not give rise to any exigency that would authorize the police to follow the defendant into a residence, we reverse.


         On April 11, 2012, at about 8:50 P.M., two undercover Boston police officers, while patrolling the Dorchester section of Boston, approached a legally parked vehicle in which sat three males. The vehicle was "consumed with smoke" and condensation had formed on the rear windshield. The defendant was seated in the front passenger seat. As the officers approached the vehicle, the defendant opened the door and stepped outside. Smoke emanated from the vehicle, and the officers were struck by a "strong" odor of burnt marijuana.

         One of the officers, Officer Beliveau, who had experience and training in drug related crimes, was approaching the passenger side and ordered the defendant to get back inside the vehicle. The defendant sat back in the front passenger seat but his legs protruded outside the vehicle through the door. Beliveau repeated his command, and the defendant repositioned himself fully into the vehicle. "[I]n the passenger compartment of that door, " Beliveau then observed a small plastic glassine bag, a copper grinder (commonly used to break up marijuana so that it could be more easily rolled into cigarettes), and cigar wrappers. "[G]reen leafy matter" was observed inside the grinder.

         The defendant appeared very nervous. He told Beliveau, who was standing before him, that he felt nauseous and wanted to throw up; he asked the officer to step aside to make room for him to vomit. Beliveau jokingly quipped that he must have smoked some "bad weed, " but he did not move away. Beliveau, instead, leaned into the vehicle and addressed the back seat passenger (passenger).

         Beliveau asked the passenger and the defendant for identification. The passenger produced identification, but he was also asked by Beliveau if he had ever been arrested or on probation. The passenger responded that he had been arrested for a firearm charge and was on probation. The defendant responded that he did not have any identification on him, but he disclosed his name and date of birth. Beliveau jotted that information in his notebook, and likewise asked the defendant several additional questions, including whether he had any warrants, was on probation, or had ever been arrested. The defendant responded that he had been arrested, but Beliveau could not remember if he disclosed the charge. At that point, which was approximately four minutes from the time the officers approached the vehicle, Beliveau's partner called for back up.

         Meanwhile, a woman started approaching the vehicle and asked the officers what was going on. Beliveau told the woman that they were conducting an investigation that would take only a couple of minutes, and he asked her to step back. The woman complied, and the defendant identified her as his mother.

         Within a few minutes, two uniformed officers arrived. One of those officers positioned himself near the defendant. Beliveau handed his notebook to his partner, who began checking the defendant's information in the computer located in the cruiser. Beliveau also went around the vehicle to the driver's side rear door and continued his investigation of the passenger. When Beliveau began pat frisking that individual, which was seven to eight minutes after Beliveau and his partner first approached the vehicle, the defendant fled.

         Three officers chased after the defendant, while Beliveau remained at the scene. The officers yelled for the defendant to stop, but he kept running. As the officers chased the defendant, there was a group of people on the sidewalk. The defendant ran approximately forty or fifty feet[1] to a side door of 440 Gallivan Boulevard, which was later determined to be his residence. He entered the residence without the use of force or a key. The officers followed the defendant into the residence; there were other individuals in the residence at that time. The defendant ran through the kitchen and the dining room to the front hallway, where the officers tackled him. Once on the ground, without giving the defendant any Miranda warnings, ...

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