Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts Appellate Court Decides Miranda Warnings Case

Recently, a Massachusetts state appellate court decided Commonwealth v. Cawthrona, a drug trafficking case which involved the question of whether evidence that was seized by law enforcement violated the constitutional rights of the person being charged. More specifically, this case asked the court to decide if the defendant should have received Miranda warnings before being questioned by law enforcement. In the court’s opinion, it was decided that even though the party being was not free to leave at the time the questions were asked, the party was also not in custody, which would requiring the reading of Miranda rights.

How the Case Arose

A law enforcement officer was entering a store when the officer overheard a person on the phone. The officer suspected that the person on the phone was arranging a drug transaction and as a result, the officer began to follow the defendant. Soon after, the party being followed met with another individual and the two traded unknown objects. In response, the law enforcement officer separated these two individuals. While one of the defendants received some version of the Miranda rights, the other defendant was not read the Miranda rights at all. Despite the reading of these rights, both defendants made statements that resulted in incriminating pieces of evidence being discovered in their vehicles.

The Procedural History of the Case

The defendants in this case filed a motion to suppress the incriminating evidence because it was only discovered due to unlawful activity by law enforcement. The trial court partially granted each of these suppression motions, which led to the prosecution’s appeal. The appellate court later reverse this decision and found that neither of the suppression motions should have been granted. Instead, the court found that Miranda Warnings are required as soon as a person is subject to custodial interrogation. The court concluded that the defendants had not been subject to custodial interrogation. However, the court noted that at the time of the interrogation, the defendants were not free to leave.

What are Your Miranda Rights?

The concept of Miranda rights arose in the case of Miranda v. Arizona, which held that law enforcement is required to inform an individual of certain facts after an arrest, which include:

  • The right to remain silent.

  • The knowledge that anything a person says can be used against him or her in a court of law.

  • The knowledge that a person has the right to have an attorney present during any questioning.

  • The knowledge that if a person cannot afford an attorney, legal counsel will be appointed for that person.

These rights arise if a person is in custody or deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way.

Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one faces criminal charges in Massachusetts, it is a wise idea to speak with an experienced attorney who can make sure that your case resolves in a positive manner. Contact Edward R. Molari, Attorney at Law today to schedule an initial free consultation. Attorney Molari has helped numerous individuals navigate the complicated issues that can arise in criminal cases and knows what it takes to provide the strong legal defense strategy that you need.