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Donald Trump is soon leaving office, but there is a case that the United States Supreme Court may hear concerning whether the President has a right to block people on Twitter.  Donald Trump v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University is a case that concerns the president blocking people on Twitter.  If we’ve learned anything these past four years, it’s that Trump loves to use his personal Twitter account.  The Obama Administration created the @POTUS account in 2015, and since then, all presidents get access to the @POTUS Twitter account when they take office.  Donald Trump has access to this account, but he overwhelmingly uses his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account that he has had since 2009.  He has continued to use his unofficial personal account while in office on the daily, sometimes posting over 100 tweets in a single day.

Like any social media user, Trump will block individuals that he does not care to associate with.   However, this novel issue begs the question;  if a public official who uses a social media account as an extension of his office—by, for example, making official announcements, inviting members of the public to respond, and allowing members of the public to communicate with one another about matters relating to government—violates the First Amendment when he ejects members of the public from that forum based on viewpoint.

Does the Public forum Doctrine precent President Trump from blocking followers?

The case of Commonwealth v. Josiah Zachery that is current before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court raises the issue of whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in data from the Charlie Card, which is used to ride the commuter rails in Boston. This issue is likely to reoccur as all cards now track location, from CVS cards, to cards to reflect tolls paid in the highway.  The Massachusetts SJC heard oral argument on November 6, 2020 and a decision should follow within three to four months.

What happened in the Zachery Case?  

In February of 2015, Donte Henley and the defendant were allegedly shoveling snow with the ROCA, a non-profit program for high-risk youth that provides job training. Henley told the defendant to shoot another member of the crew, Lamour, who was a member of a rival gang. The defendant still denies the shooting and contends that there is a lack of forensic evidence against him. The shooter was described as a young, black, male wearing all black with a grey sweater. The defendant matched this description, and he was walking on the side of the road carrying a shovel. The officers determined that he matched the description and decided to check him out. He was searched for weapons, none were found, and they placed him inside the police vehicle. 

As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer, I have spoke to and helped countless people facing a criminal charge.  One of the more difficult things to deal with is the stress and anxiety during the case.  Criminal cases take time so it is important to be in a good mental framework, to move forward with your life, family and career even while the charge is working its way through the Court Process.

For years, we have sent clients the book called the Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. This is a great book and worth reading as well.  Recently, I have started sending a different book.  Change your Thinking Change your Life by Brian Tracy.  This book is incredible and has a very positive message.

Your thoughts Control your realty

Civil Rights Violation Case Examined by Massachusetts District Court

Americans value their privacy, and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees Americans that they have a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to their property and homes.  But what happens when this right is violated?  In Johnson v. City of Worcester, Carl Johnson had his privacy violated and sued the police officers responsible.

What happened in Johnson?

The Community Care taker Exception to the Fourth Amendment allows police officers to make warrantless search when the purpose of the officer to to help the public and not look for evidence of criminal activity.  A case pending before the United States Supreme Court, Caniglia v. Strom, asks the question of whether the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement extends to the home.

What is “community caretaking?”

Community care taking has been recognized as an exception to the Fourth Amendment by the United States Supreme Court.  In Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433 (1973), the United Starts Supreme Court held that police officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they searched the trunk of a car that had been towed after an accident.  The Court acknowledged that, “except in certain carefully defined classes of cases,” police cannot search private property without consent or a warrant.  It emphasized, however, that “there is a constitutional difference between houses and cars.”  Since Cady, there has been a whole host of cases that took this holding and created the doctrine of “community caretaking.”  Cady defined community caretaking activities as those “totally divorced from the detection, investigation, or acquisition of evidence relating to the violation of a criminal statute.”

Criminal Defendants are required to be given Miranda warnings prior to any custodial interrogations being used against them in court.  What happens when these warnings deviate from the requirements that the United States Supreme Court set forth in Miranda v. Arizona.  A case pending before the United States Supreme Court, Michigan v. Matthews will address whether there can be deviations from the traditional Miranda warning under the 5th Amendment.

Michigan v. Mathews is a case that is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court and asks the Court to clarify whether Miranda is satisfied when a suspect in custody is advised at the beginning of an interrogation that they have the right to an attorney, but is not explicitly advised that they are entitled to the attorney’s presence before and during interrogation.

The Michigan Court of Appeals held that a general “right to counsel” warning is insufficient, and that Miranda requires language expressly warning the suspect of the right to the presence of counsel before and during interrogation.  This decision conflicts with the Sixth Circuit, so there are different standards for Miranda warnings depending on whether the case goes to state or federal court.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided the case of Commonwealth v. Charles Bohigian today holding that a blood draw without the consent of the defendant is inadmissible into evidence.  This case arose out of the Westborough District Court and was transferred to Worcester District Court for trial.

The defendant was charged with OUI causing Serious Bodily Injury.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stated that it is Constitutional to draw blood without consent as long as an officer has a warrant or exigency circumstances make getting a warrant impractical.  However, the legislature created a statutory framework for getting Blood in the context of an OUI.

Massachusetts statute allows for a person to be involuntarily hospitalized for an extended period of time if a physician or police officer believes that the person is a danger to themselves or others as a result of their mental illness.  In the Matter of J.P., J.P. a mentally ill man appealed his involuntary commitment to a mental hospital, arguing that the lower court impermissibly relied on hearsay evidence in making the order.

What happened in the J.P. case?

J.P. was at the emergency room in a hospital when he was presenting signs of serious mental illness.  He was brought to the hospital after threatening his mother and exhibiting paranoid behavior.  He was then involuntarily committed to Suncoast Behavioral Health.  The attending physician, Dr. Lee said that J.P. was a harm to himself and others as a result of his illness.  Dr. Lee diagnosed J.P. with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.

The United States Supreme Court in favor of an inmate in Taylor v. Riojas, a decision that was issued yesterday.

What happened in Taylor?

Texas inmate Trent Taylor was subjected to inhumane conditions in his Texas jail cell, after being committed to the unit following a suicide attempt.  The conditions described were horrifying.  Taylor was stripped naked and placed in a cell covered in feces from previous residents.  The feces contaminated his water supply, leading Taylor to not eat or drink for four days out of fear of becoming ill.   Correctional officers then moved Taylor to another cell, which was equally horrific.  The second cell was a “seclusion cell” with no bed or other furniture,  and no toilet to use, just a drain for bodily fluids.  As if the conditions would not get worse, the cell was frigidly cold, and Taylor had nothing but a suicide blanket for warmth.  He was forced to sleep on the urine-soaked floor.  As a result of these conditions, he could not use the bathroom for over 24 hours, and as a result, Taylor suffered a distended bladder requiring catheterization.

Does a Defendant Have Standing to Challenge a Warrantless Search of a Co-Defendant’s Cellphone?

   The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in a case on November 2nd addressing who has standing to challenge the illegal search of a phone.  Does a person sending a text message have standing to challenge the illegal search of a phone.

This issue came up in the case of Commonwealth v. Delgado-Rivera.  This case is on appeal from Superior Court allowing a Motion to Suppress on behalf of Mr. Jorge Delgado-Rivera. The issue in this case is whether the trial court erred in ruling that Mr. Delgado-Rivera has standing to challenge a warrantless search of a Co-Defendant’s cellphone on the grounds that Mr. Delgado-Rivera had sent the Co-Defendant text messages.  Standing means does a person have a right to have the court hear their claim that their 4th Amendment rights were violated.  Simply put, this means did the person have a expectation of privacy that society deems reasonable.  This case is very important as more and more information is shared over technology.

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