Online Edition


SJC Expands Pure Emergency Exception to Animals in Duncan

by September 12, 2014
On April 11, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) extended the pure-emergency exception to allow police officers and other public officials to enter a home without first obtaining a warrant “to render emergency assistance to animals.” The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights each require a judicial determination of probable cause prior to a government intrusion into an individual’s dwelling. Nevertheless, there are a number of exceptions to this requirement. One such exception “permits the police to enter a home without a warrant when they have an objectively reasonable basis to believe that there may be someone inside who is injured or in imminent danger of physical harm.” The SJC’s holding in Duncan extends that pure emergency exception to the rendering of emergency aid to animals as well.

SJC in Canty Addresses Police Officer Testimony at OUI Trials

by May 12, 2014
Police officer testimony during OUI (operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol) trials in Massachusetts often reads like a script from an all too familiar play, with indicators of alcohol intoxication largely the same across police reports and police officer testimony. Police reports are almost certain to include phrases such as, “odor of alcohol on the [driver’s] breath” and “eyes were bloodshot.”

Providing Context: New Hampshire Supreme Court Allows Recording of Officer’s “Motive to Lie” Statement into Evidence

by April 20, 2014
Ernest Willis was convicted of various sexual assault offenses that occurred in 1997. He appealed those convictions in State v. Willis, by arguing that the court erred in admitting certain portions of a police interrogation recording into evidence. The conviction arose from Willis’s interactions with a fifteen-year-old girl who attended his church.

Back It Up: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Holds First Amendment and Common-Law Rights of Access to Criminal Trial Do Not Extend to Backup Room Recording

by February 18, 2014
In Commonwealth v. Winfield, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), in a matter of first impression, held that the First Amendment right of access to a criminal trial—as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment—and the common-law right of access to judicial records did not extend to a backup room recording that was not the official record of the trial.