I was staying at a friend’s house and the police searched the house without a search warrant.  They seized evidence and want to use it against me.  Can they do that?

Every person has a Constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.  Before a defendant can challenge a search or seizure, he must establish a search, in the Constitutional sense, has occurred.  Among other things, a defendant must demonstrate an expectation of privacy, both objective and subjective, in the place that was searched before contesting the legality of the search.  The home is afforded the highest Constitutional protection.  If the items seized are not in plain view, the incriminating character is not immediately apparent, or is not seized pursuant to an emergency; a defendant has a good chance of establishing an expectation of privacy in his home.  But what about someone else’s residence?  On June 17, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered the issue in Commonwealth v. Copney.

Copney was indicted for, among other things, murder.  Mr. Copney’s girlfriend was a student at Harvard University.  Copney was a frequent overnight guest in her dorm room.  Copney devised a plan to rob a Cambridge resident who was known to sell marijuana to Harvard students.  The plan went awry and Copney shot and killed the drug dealer.  Shortly after the shooting police entered Copney’s girlfriend’s room and observed a black and orange jacket in her room.  The jacket matched a description given by a witness who saw three black men fleeing the area after the shooting.  The police sought a search warrant and seized the jacket.  It appears a gun linking the defendant to the shooting was wrapped in the jacket.

Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence.  The defendant argued he stayed with his girlfriend on a regular basis, therefore he had an expectation of privacy in the contents of her room.  In finding Copney lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in his girlfriend’s room the court relied on the facts surrounding the girlfriend’s residency at the dormitory.  The court stated that Harvard had a specific policy in place relating to the use of the room for students.  The policies did not authorize the resident to delegate or share those rights with others who were not authorized by the University.  Concluding the defendant did not have an expectation of privacy, the motion to suppress was denied.


A top Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney must embrace a strong motions practice.  Constitutional violations can lead to suppression of evidence.  When evidence is suppressed it cannot be introduced at trial.  This can have a devastating impact on the prosecutor’s case against you.  Boston, MA Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeff Miller has successfully navigated cases involving difficult suppression issues.  CLICK HERE to read about cases where Attorney Miller has successfully suppressed evidence.  If you have been charged with a crime call Jeff Miller at 617-482-5799 to schedule an appointment.