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Suppression victory limits police intrusion

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Attorney Lown’s motion to suppress win in Boston’s downtown district court underscored an important fact: police officers do not have authority to stop and frisk someone merely because they seem “suspicious.”

Lown’s client was just 17 when an assailant shot him. The DA’s office considered him a victim at the time. Sometime later officers saw him on the street near the scene of a bicycle robbery. The officers claimed that he matched a vague description given of the robbery suspect. The officers also claimed that a different individual the client was with was a supposed gang member.

The officers seized Lown's client on the street, searched him and claimed that he was carrying a gun.

Years back, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts condemned the Boston Police Department’s 1980s policy to “search on sight” all young Black persons suspected of being in the company of an alleged gang member.

In 2014, BPD hired their own analyst who reviewed over 200,000 stop-and-frisks, an analysis of which revealed vast racial disparities. Moreover, the vast majority of the 204,000-plus persons who police stopped were not committing any crime. Only 2.5% of such stop reports indicate that officers seized weapons, drugs or other contraband.

In this case, Attorney Lown cross-examined four officers at a 4-hour hearing. Ultimately, Judge Catherine Byrne ruled that the officers crossed a line. She found that the officers lacked sufficient justification beyond a mere hunch to search Lown’s client and that the Constitution demanded that the evidence be suppressed.

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