A Somerville District Court judge today allowed Attorney Chris Spring’s motion to suppress evidence found during the execution of a search warrant at his client’s apartment, resulting in the dismissal of his case (where he was charged with unlawfully possessing ammunition).
The defendant was involved in a domestic dispute with his then-girlfriend in November of 2017. During the course of the argument, our client threw a bottle at the ex-girlfriend’s head, resulting in a laceration that required stitches. The defendant was stabbed in the arm during the altercation and he also needed stitches. He was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and was found not guilty by a Cambridge District Court jury.
During the police investigation, the ex-girlfriend reported that the defendant had showed her two handguns in his apartment approximately six months earlier. He then discussed his plans to obtain a license to carry a firearm. Based on the information provided by the ex-girlfriend, the police applied for a search warrant to search his apartment. A clerk magistrate authorized the warrant, and the cops searched the defendant’s apartment. While they did not find any guns, they did locate two boxes of ammunition. In Massachusetts, it is illegal to possess ammunition without an FID (Firearms Identification) card, which the defendant did not possess. Accordingly, he was charged with unlawful possession of ammunition.
Attorney Spring filed a motion to suppress the ammunition. He argued that the information provided by the ex-girlfriend was too old (stale) to be relied on by the magistrate who issued the search warrant. When assessing the sufficiency of the evidence provided in support of probable cause, there needs to be a timely nexus between the items sought and the location where they will allegedly be found. In other words, even if it was reasonable to believe the items would have been discovered in the defendant’s apartment six months earlier, the information was no longer helpful (because it was too old) by the time it was presented to the clerk magistrate. Attorney Spring presented a case to the judge in which the Appeals Court concluded a 60-day delay in presenting the evidence to the clerk magistrate was too long. Clearly if 60 days was too long, argued Attorney Spring, then six months wasn’t timely. A Somerville District Court judge agreed with Attorney Spring’s argument and suppressed the two boxes of ammunition (which means the Commonwealth would not have been permitted to introduce the evidence at trial). Without the necessary evidence, the Commonwealth was forced to dismiss the case.
Defendants often think that if evidence was discovered during the execution of a search warrant, it will automatically be introduced against them at trial. However, experienced criminal defense attorneys are often able to convince judges either that: the warrant was improperly authorized (as was the case here); or the warrant was improperly executed and returned to the courthouse. If you are charged with a crime based on evidence seized during the execution of a search warrant, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney to review your options.