A Middlesex Superior Court judge today allowed Attorney Chris Spring’s motion to suppress 47 grams of heroin, 12 grams of cocaine, and thousands of dollars in cash seized from his client’s bag by the police.
Officers from the Chelmsford Police Department were investigating the report of a man walking through a hotel lobby bleeding profusely from a wound on his arm. Officers went to the lobby of the hotel and spoke to the front desk clerk who said the defendant had been visiting room 356, which was registered to a woman (the clerk provided the woman’s name to the police). The police found the bleeding man in the lobby’s bathroom and asked what had happened. The man appeared to not want to answer the officers’ questions but said he was staying in the hotel with his wife. The officers were concerned the man had “robbed or killed” someone and escorted him to room 356 to investigate. When they arrived at the room, the cops knocked at the door. The bleeding man’s wife (who was not the registered occupant) answered the door and allowed the police entry. There was drug paraphernalia all over the place and the woman who had rented the hotel room was found hiding in the bathroom, apparently under the influence of drugs. Meanwhile, Attorney Spring’s client was lying, unconscious, on a bed. The other people in the hotel room told the police that Attorney Spring’s client might have a gun in his bag (which was lying next to the bed). The officers handcuffed Attorney Spring’s client while he was still unconscious and began searching his bag. They found a large amount of heroin, cocaine, and cash. The client finally woke up about 15 minutes later and admitted ownership of the bag. He was arrested and indicted for, among other things, trafficking in heroin.
Attorney Spring filed a motion to suppress, arguing the police officers’ entry into the hotel room and search of his client’s bag violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Following an evidentiary hearing, the judge agreed the Chelmsford police officers had violated Attorney Spring’s client’s constitutional rights. The judge concluded the woman who answered the door to room 356 lacked the authority to allow the officers inside. The police knew she was not the registered occupant of the hotel room. However, the judge credited the police officer’s testimony that he believed the bloody man from the lobby might have robbed or killed someone associated with the room. Therefore, the so-called emergency doctrine allowed the officers to enter the room to ensure the safety of everyone inside. Once the police confirmed nobody was hurt in the hotel room, the emergency was over. However, the police then decided to handcuff Attorney Spring’s client and, while he was handcuffed and sleeping, search his bag. The judge found the search of the bag (without a warrant) was unconstitutional. Therefore, the drugs found therein will be inadmissible at trial. When Attorney Spring’s client finally woke up, he was already handcuffed and being asked questions by the cops. However, the police never read him his Miranda warnings. Therefore, the judge suppressed all of the statements he made to the police. As a result of the judge’s allowance of Attorney Spring’s motion to suppress, the Commonwealth will have no evidence and will be forced to dismiss the case. Attorney Spring’s client will avoid trial and potentially serving the mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence that would have come with a conviction.