According to The Lowell Sun, seventeen year old Sergio Figueroa, a student at Lowell High School was escorted out of school and charged with a number of criminal offenses in Lowell District Court including threats, disturbing a school assembly and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. According to the Sun, after a teacher told him to leave the classroom the student made a motion similar to shooting and made threats to the teacher. Apparently, after the police caught up with Figueroa, he did not have a binder with him that he had with him when he left school. The authorities eventually searched his locker and found a bag containing four smaller baggies of what they believe is marijuana and one-hundred thirty five dollars in cash.
Although all of the facts of the case are not known at this time, it would be important for an experienced defense attorney to examine all of the facts that led to the decision by law enforcement to search the student’s locker. In Massachusetts an individual has a right to an expectation of privacy on his or her person and in his or her home. Depending on the circumstances, this “expectation” can extend to cover motor vehicles. Whether a student has an “expectation of privacy”in his or her locker could depend on the rules promulgated by the school. An argument can be made that it is a privilege to go to school and the students must abide by the rules. However, the constitutionality of any “rules” and whether the proper procedure was followed can often be the subject of a viable motion to suppress evidence.
Filing a motion to suppress evidence is one of the many tools that an aggressive defense lawyer has in his or her arsenal. In cases in which a person is charged with illegal possession of an item i.e., a firearm or a controlled substance, examining the circumstances surrounding any stop, search and seizure is a good place to start in mounting a successful defense. In the event that evidence is suppressed, and the Commonwealth cannot prove its case, the case is often dismissed by a judge or nolle prossed by the prosecution.
In Massachusetts, if a defendant loses a motion to suppress, in most circumstances that decision cannot be appealed unless, and until, the case goes to trial and a defendant loses and appeals his case. Thus, even if a defendant loses a motion to suppress, that he or she should have won, if a defendant then pleads guilty, the defendant cannot then appeal the improper denial of the motion to suppress. However, if the Commonwealth feels that a motion was improperly allowed, the prosecution can appeal. The rationale for this is that the Commonwealth will not be able to prosecute without the evidence so in the interest of fairness, they are allowed to appeal the allowance of motions to suppress. However, if a defendant is found not guilty, the Commonwealth has not right of appeal.