Understanding Massachusetts’ Search And Seizure Laws
State residents are protected from unlawful search and seizure tactics by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution working in conjunction with Article 14 of Massachusetts’ Declaration of Rights. Generally, this prevents law enforcement from searching an individual, their automobile or their private residence without a search warrant. In practice, the circumstances surrounding the search affect whether a warrant is deemed necessary.
Dismissing Evidence From Illegal Searches
If the police identify illegal materials during an unlawful search, the attorneys at J. W. Carney, Jr. and Associates can look to have the evidence completely suppressed from your case.
With over 40 years of criminal law experience, our firm understands the nuances surrounding Massachusetts’ search and seizure laws. Our legal team can carefully evaluate the circumstances surrounding your interaction with law enforcement to determine whether your rights were violated as they searched for drugs or another illegal activity.
Is A Search Warrant Necessary?
In Massachusetts, search warrants are primarily required any time law enforcement would like to search an individual or their property. Additionally, they must make a sworn oath before the court that there is sufficient probable cause to search the property in question.
While a search warrant is necessary in the majority of situations, the court may find a warrant unnecessary if:
- The officer is in physical danger
- The officer is in hot pursuit of a suspect
- There is risk of evidence being removed or destroyed
- Illegal materials are in plain sight
- The suspect consents to the search
- The suspect is arrested
If you suspect that an officer violated your privacy rights, speak with our experienced defense lawyers to discuss your situation.
How Does An Automobile Search Differ From A Home Search?
Typically, search and seizure laws are more lenient with an automobile than a home. Due to an automobile’s mobility, there is a greater risk that evidence could be removed or destroyed if an officer does not immediately search the vehicle. Law enforcement may search areas of your vehicle within the driver’s reach, such as the glove box, without a warrant to protect their safety against potential weapons.
Note that Massachusetts decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. After this change in 2008, the smell of unburnt marijuana no longer provides officers with probable cause to search your vehicle for drugs.