Mass. High Court Deletes Camera Search, Gun Conviction

Bloomberg Law’s® extensive network of reporters and editors helps subscribers to stay ahead of legal

By Jordan S. Rubin

Cops needed a warrant to search the digital camera of an arrestee, so evidence from the search is suppressed and the resulting gun conviction is reversed, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts held Aug. 14 ( Commonwealth v. Mauricio , 2017 BL 282921, Mass., SJC-12254, 8/14/17 ).

The court applied its state constitution and the logic of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Riley v. California—which held warrants are needed to search mobile phones of arrestees—to find a warrant was needed to search the camera in this case.

Cops searched Kevin A. Mauricio’s backpack after he was arrested for breaking and entering. They saw a digital camera, a stolen ring, and other items in the bag. Cops searched the camera without a warrant and saw images of Mauricio next to firearms, which led to a gun conviction. For the ring, he was convicted of receiving stolen property valued over $250.

The camera evidence should have been suppressed, the state high court said. The Massachusetts constitution grants broader rights to criminal defendants than its federal counterpart, so the logic of Riley compelled a warrant, it said. And the inventory exception to the warrant requirement doesn’t save the camera evidence, either, because inventory searches are meant to safeguard and catalog property, not to investigate crimes, it said.

But the illegal camera search didn’t taint the ring, the court said, upholding a lesser version of the stolen property conviction. Even though the prosecution proved the ring was stolen, it didn’t prove its value, the court said.

Mathew B. Zindroski of Auburndale, Mass., represented Mauricio. The Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, New Bedford, Mass., represented the commonwealth.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Try White Collar & Criminal Law News