Massachusetts Highest Court cites racial profiling in suppressing evidence in gun case

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found that the police had no reasonable suspicion to stop a black male walking on the streets in Roxbury believed to be a suspect in a breaking and entering. As result of the seizure, the police found a hand gun; the Court ordered it suppressed as there was no basis for the detention of the defendant.

The SJC overruled the decision of the motion judge who would found no Constitutional violation under the 4th Amendment or Article 14. The Court decision held:

  • Flight provides little or no weigh in an analysis of reasonable suspicion unless the person is committing a crime, as the police could induce flight and thereby create a suspicion where none exits.
  • The SJC held that the Court can consider that a Black individual may avoid the police to avoid the indignity of racial profiling.
  • The Court disagreed with the Judge’s finding that the officer had a basis for the stop based on the description of the victim; the Court held that the description was too vague as the victim stated the defendant was black male, wearing dark clothes and a red hoodie.  The Court found that this was too general of a description and that the police did not know who they were looking for.

Giving the timing of the stop, 30 minutes after the report, the officer was working on hunch that the defendant committed the crime.

The SJC ruling suppressing the gun seized is critical because the Court suggests that flight from the police should be given less weight given the high degree of racial profiling in Boston.  Further, the Court required the description of the individual to be more detailed rather than a general description to justify an investigator stop.  Given the events of today in Tulsa and Charlotte, and recent racial strife throughout the United States, this decision was well reasoned under the Constitution and timely in light of increased racial tension.

If you have questions about search and seizure law, feel free to contact Attorney DelSignore at 781-686-5924 or visit our website to learn more about Massachusetts Criminal law.

To read more about this decision, visit and Article on the Boston Glove website by John Ellement and Jan Ransom.  

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