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Commonwealth v. Spring

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Worcester

December 5, 2019

COMMONWEALTH
v.
JASON SPRING.

          Heard: March 8, 2019.

          Complaints received and sworn to in the East Brookfield Division of the District Court Department on January 4 and February 23, 2016. A motion to suppress was heard by Maura K. McCarthy, J.; and the case was tried before Mark A. Goldstein, J.

          Darla J. Mondou for the defendant.

          Susan M. Oftring, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Hanlon, Agnes, & Sullivan, JJ.

          HANLON, J.

         After a jury trial in the District Court, the defendant, Jason Spring, was convicted of carrying a firearm without a license and possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card (FID). He appeals, arguing that his motion to suppress should have been allowed and, for that reason, he is entitled to a new trial. We agree that the motion should have been allowed, and his admission that he did not have a license to carry the firearm or an FID card suppressed, but we conclude that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. We therefore affirm.

         Background.

         We supplement the judge's findings on the motion to suppress with uncontested facts from the testimony at the hearing. On January 1, 2016, Rutland Police Sergeant Nicholas A. Monaco noticed a black Jeep parked in a private dirt parking lot at approximately 2:10 A.M. Monaco observed a T-shirt hanging in the driver's side window, and that the car's windows were fogged. The defendant was asleep in the car; when awakened, he identified himself as "Jason Spring from Holden," but when the officer asked for his driver's license, the defendant responded that he did not have his wallet. Monaco asked who was the owner of the car, and the defendant responded that "the car might have belonged to a guy he worked with." Monaco told the defendant to get out of the car, handcuffed him, and placed him in the rear of Monaco's police cruiser. Monaco then conducted a Registry of Motor Vehicles inquiry and discovered that the defendant's driver's license had been revoked and the car was unregistered. Monaco also learned the defendant had an outstanding default warrant from the District Court.

         As a result of this information, Monaco decided that the defendant's car would be towed. Another officer arrived, and the officers conducted an inventory search of the car pursuant to police department policy. The inventory search produced a large capacity rifle (a Bushmaster semiautomatic), three magazines, ammunition, a single Prednisone pill, and a glass pipe with marijuana residue.

         Monaco testified that the case containing the rifle, the magazines, and the ammunition was not in plain view but covered by clothes. When he found it, he returned to his cruiser and searched the relevant computer database for any record that the defendant possessed a license to carry a firearm or an FID; he discovered that the defendant had neither.

         Afterwards, Monaco asked the defendant if he had either a license to carry the firearm or an FID. The defendant responded that he did not. Monaco acknowledged that, when he asked the question, he had not advised the defendant of his Miranda warnings. Monaco then transported the defendant to the Rutland Police Department where he was booked and read his Miranda rights for the first time.

         As noted, prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress "the stop, search, seizure and questioning as a result of an unauthorized and illegal stop and search of a vehicle." After the hearing, the judge issued written findings of fact and rulings of law and denied the defendant's motion. Thereafter, the defendant was tried before six-person jury, with a different judge presiding, and he was convicted of carrying a firearm without a license and possession of ammunition without an FID card. The defendant appeals, seeking a new trial and claiming that the motion judge erred in denying his motion to suppress his "statements made in response to interrogation while handcuffed and secured in a locked cruiser without being provided Miranda warnings."

         D ...


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