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Defending Gun Crimes in Massachusetts by challenging the search under the Fourth Amendment

Gun charges against a Holden man were recently dismissed as the Massachusetts State Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the search warrant that was issued lacked probable cause and was ultimately invalid. This comes after the defendant Steven Mora filed a motion to suppress the fruits of the search, which uncovered a handgun, a magazine, and ammunition, arguing that the search warrant lacked probable cause.

The legal standard for issuing a search warrant is probable cause. To establish said probable cause, the police must submit an affidavit establishing facts surrounding the case and a clerk magistrate will conclude whether to not the items that the police are requesting the warrant for are related to the criminal activity that is under investigation. The defendant, Steven Mora, argued that the search warrant for the safe was improperly issued and the affidavit prepared by the Worcester Police Department failed to establish the necessary probable cause. The police were conducting surveillance in an area known to police for frequent drug transactions, when they observed the defendant approach a drug-dealer and make what they believed to be an illegal purchase.

Mora, the drug dealer, and an unidentified woman entered a car and eventually left the parking lot; shortly after the police pulled over the vehicle and conducted a pat-frisk of Mora and a inventory search of the vehicle. The search led to the discovery of a small safe in the backseat of the vehicle which the police confiscated. Because the police did some research and uncovered that firearms are typically stored in a similar safe to the one found in the backseat, the police prepared & presented an affidavit to the clerk magistrate. The affidavit clearly established probable cause that drug transactions did occur, but the affidavit, argued the defendant, did not connect the drug dealing or any other criminal activity to the safe found in the defendant’s motor vehicle.

The affidavit also failed to make clear who the police were targeting. For an affidavit to have probable cause in support of a search warrant, there must be a timely connection between criminal activity and the particular person to be searched, as well as a particular item to search for and to ultimately seize. Because the affidavit made no connection between drug use and the safe, there was not probable cause to believe that there was any evidence of the defendant’s drug use kept in the safe. The affidavit, however, did have probable cause that there was a firearm in the safe, the licensed possession of a firearm is not a crime in Massachusetts and there was no reason to believe Mora did not have a license.

The court ultimately ruled that because the contents found in the safe were illegally seized by police, the warrant was invalid and therefore the fruits must be suppressed. You can read the full case here on Mass Legal Resources.

You can read more about search warrants and what constitutes probable cause on our educational website here.

If you have any questions regarding a charge that you or a loved one is facing, contact an Attorney at DelSignore Law today. We can go over your case with you and go through some of the defenses that may be available to you.


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