Thirty two year old William French of Framingham, Massachusetts was arrested following a 2010 incident where he is accused of Rape. Authorities claim that French kidnapped a woman and took her back to his home where he committed Aggravated Rape, Robbery and assorted Massachusetts felonies. He is now trying to Suppress evidence (statements) he claims were obtained in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights; specifically that French was drunk at the time his confession was obtained. Three officers testified at the hearing, all claiming that they did not smell alcohol on French at all.
Suppressing Statements in Massachusetts is not easy to do. Yet when a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer is able to get someone’s confession excluded the case often becomes difficult if not impossible to prove. Both the federal and Massachusetts constitutions require exclusion of statements obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment and Article 12 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. Any statement of an accused to be used by the district attorney must have been made voluntarily. It is the burden of the prosecution to prove voluntariness beyond a reasonable doubt. Intoxication bears heavily on the issue of voluntariness.
Great deference is given to the observations and testimony of police officers at hearing on motions to suppress evidence. Successfully challenging their account often requires tireless investigation. It might be necessary to establish a timeline through witnesses showing when and where the defendant was drinking, how much he was drinking and his apparent state of sobriety. Sometimes security videotapes can be accessed showing the accused drinking and acting in a manner consistent with being intoxicated at or near the time of the interrogation. Receipts from bars often help prove how much the accused had to drink.
Recent developments in Massachusetts case law have helped with police credibility issues in this area. It has been suggested that the better practice for police interrogations is to have the interview recorded. Consequently, Massachusetts police usually explain to the subject the option of having the proceeding recorded. The accused can reject the offer. These recordings have been helpful to me in defending cases. They often better highlight the points my clients seek to get across. So rather than rely on the police officer’s testimony the judge or jury can make an independent assessment about sobriety and constitutional violations in general.
Here, it appears that absent suppression of French’s statements a conviction is likely to follow. The allegations are chilling. French is already serving a state prison sentence following a parole violation. Rape is a life felony in Massachusetts and the guidelines for a sentence after a conviction are high in this case. This shows just how important it is to make a proper challenge to these statements.
Our office has won Motions to Suppress that have resulted in the dismissal of serious criminal charges. Call us at 617-263-6800 or send us an email if you have been charged with a criminal matter.