Case: COMMONWEALTH vs. Michael HOLLOWAY,
Court: Massachusetts Court of Appeals,
Opinion Rendered: March 30, 2012,
Subject: Scope of a Search Incident to Arrest
Defendant, Michael Holloway, prevailed on his Motion to Suppress the seizure of a bicycle as the fruit of a warrantless search. Commonwealth appealed the decision.
On August 11, 2010, Sergeant Detective Joseph Horton arrested the defendant at a residential housing complex of the Boston Housing Authority after recognizing the defendant to be on the Boston Housing Authority’s “no-trespass list.” In effectuating the arrest, Sergeant Horton seized two mountain bicycles located near the defendant. Defendant claims that this seizure was outside the scope of a search incident to a lawful arrest for trespass.
A warrantless seizure of property unrelated to the arrest must be supported by “probable cause to believe that the item seized is connected with criminal activity,” and “probable cause to believe that the objects seized are in fact contraband.” Sullivan v. District Court of Hampshire, 384 Mass. 736, 743 (1981). See Commonwealth v. Cruz, 53 Mass.App.Ct. 24, 35 (2001).
In the Appeals Court decision, the Court indicated that at the moment of seizure, the officer was without knowledge, definite or otherwise, of a reported bicycle theft in the area or that the bicycles were otherwise related to criminal activity. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the Commonwealth that the defendant’s apparent lack of specific knowledge of the bicycle brand, and his alleged apathy regarding the security of an expensive bicycle after his arrest, permitted a reasonable inference that the bicycle was stolen.
The Appeals Court determined through a case analysis that “[t]he one fact or circumstance which appears in almost every case in which such a seizure has been upheld is that the officer making the seizure then knew or had probable cause to believe that the articles [seized] were stolen.” The court found significance in factors present in seizures determined to be lawful, such as where “the searching officers knew that [a] post office had been robbed … [t]he seized articles were readily identifiable … as government property … [t]hey were presumptive fruits of the crime and their presence in the basement of appellant’s home was cogent evidence of his identification with the offense.” Ibid., quoting from Seymour v. United States, 369 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir.1966), cert. denied, 386 U.S. 987 (1967). Cf. Commonwealth v. Balicki, 436 Mass. 1, 11 (2002). Such factors are absent here.
The Appeals Court affirmed the lower court decision to allow the Defendant’s Motion to Suppress.
The above listed article is a summary of the decision, if you are interested in reading the full Appeals Court Opinion, please visit http://www.massreports.com/slipops/