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Articles Posted in 4th Amendment

The Massachusetts SJC heard arguments in Commonwealth v. Rainey regarding the 4th amendment implications of police officer bodycam footage. In this case, an officer responded to a call at the defendant’s house and had a bodycam recording the outside and what could be seen of the inside of their house without a warrant. The basis for the claim was both the 4th Amendment of the Constitution and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

There were two arguments. The first argument was that it was error to rely on an illegal audio recording to determine that Mr. Rainey had committed a new crime, therefore violating his probation. Here, the illegal audio recording formed the entire basis of the judge’s revocation of Rainey’s probation and drove the result. The Massachusetts Wiretap Statute makes it a crime to “willfully commit an interception, attempt to commit an interception, or procure any other person to commit an interception or to attempt to commit an interception of any wire or oral communication.” An interception means “to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another to secretly hear or secretly record the contents of any wire or personal communication through the use of any intercepting device by any person other than a person given prior authority by all parties to such communication.”

In Commonwealth v. Yusuf, the SJC addressed privacy concerns of police body cameras recording the inside of people’s homes. This case mainly talked about video recording what was visible in plain view. The body cam was not obvious, and the officer even warned fellow officers that it was there since it wasn’t visible. The exceptions that would make this type of recording admissible are investigating organized crime or responding to a dangerous situation that is more than just an assault and battery. However, there is no exception for recording people in their private homes just because they sought the assistance of police.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments on December 5, 2022, in a case that discussed searches and seizures from a vehicle at one’s workplace based on anonymous tips. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence found as a result of the search of his vehicle on the basis it was unlawful, and the court denied it. The defendant had two arguments as to why the previous court erred in ruling the Commonwealth did not violate Guardado’s 4th and 14th amendment rights and protection under Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. First, the Commonwealth failed to demonstrate either the credibility of their informant or the credibility of the information, thus violating the Aguilar-Spinelli test, and also that the Commonwealth refused to instruct the jury about the exemption from liability that occurs when individuals have a firearm “in or on their place of business.”

Under the Aguilar-Spinelli test established by the US Supreme Court, police are required to demonstrate that an informant is credible or that their information is credible when they use that info to conduct a search warrant or warrantless arrest. Although this standard was abandoned by the Supreme Court in Illinois v. Gates and replaced by a “totality of the circumstances” approach, Massachusetts is one of the few states that has adopted this standard based on their own state constitution. In Guardado’s case, the officers searched the glovebox of his vehicle at his place of work based on an anonymous informant telling them a firearm was in a backpack within his vehicle. There were four reasons the search was improper:

  1. The evidence didn’t establish the informant’s veracity or if he had firsthand knowledge of the info, as required under Aguilar-Spinelli
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