Search Incident to Arrest doctrine key in Serious Massachusetts Felony Offense of Human Trafficking 

As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer, the outcome of serious criminal cases can often come down to very specific facts developed during a motion to suppress.  In the case of Commonwealth v. Aderito Barbosa, the defendant was charged with Human Trafficking.  This is a criminal offense that carries up to twenty years in a Massachusetts State Prison; if found guilty of the crime you are required to serve a minimum mandatory five-year state prison sentence. If the victim is under the legal age in Massachusetts, you could be looking at a life sentence.

In this case, the police raided the defendant’s hotel room at the Park Plaza in Boston.  Upon exiting the elevator, the defendant was greeted by the police.  Knowing what they were there for, he requested an attorney and said he would exercise his Miranda rights.  He tried to flee and was alleged to have resisted arrest and, at that time, requested a lawyer.  As part of an arrest, police are permitted to conduct a search incident to arrest.  A search incident to arrest is a search conducted by the police during the actual arrest; they are legally permitted to search the person being arrested, including his or her immediate surroundings.

Federal laws mandate that the police may search for weapons, contraband, or evidence of a crime, even if it is not related to the crime for which the individual is being arrested for. However, in Massachusetts, police are only granted the authority to search for evidence which is related to the crime.

The police found a pocket knife pursuant to the search incident to arrest.  The judge found that the search was lawful and the room key would have been inevitably seized.  However, the judge suppressed, without request from the defense counsel, the statement that the room key was for room 540 where the human trafficking was alleged to have occurred.  The judge found that the police were not entitled to inspect the room key as part of a search incident to arrest.

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The defense relied on the case of Commonwealth v. Blevines which held that the item seized must have a relationship to the offense that the defendant was under arrest for.

The Appeals Court distinguished that case, where the defendant was arrested for public drunkenness and the police found his car key, opened the trunk and found drugs. Here the Court found that the officers did not have to ignore the fact that they were investigating a human trafficking case and had spoken to an apparent victim of the trafficking.

As a criminal defense lawyer, some cases involve technical legal issues where minor differences in facts could result in a completely different outcome.  Charges where the Commonwealth has a strong case at trial and the defendant could face a stiff minimum sentence upon conviction often rely upon the success of a motion to suppress evidence. You can read more about the Commonwealth v. Aderito Barbosa case here.

Attorney DelSignore has written extensively on the Fourth Amendment and can review your drug, gun, or serious felony case for potential legal defenses.  In addition to writing extensively on the Fourth Amendment, Attorney DelSignore is an experienced trial lawyer. Feel free to contact Attorney DelSignore to discuss your case today.

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