BT, an out-of-state resident, was pulled over in Massachusetts, driving a Honda CRV. The police alleged that BT committed two traffic violations – erratic operation and having a broken taillight. The “erratic operation” violation was alleged to have occurred when BT pulled his car out of a parking lot, making a 90-degree left-turn, causing an oncoming car to “slam on its brakes.” Once the car was stopped the police noticed that there were four people inside. Next to the front passenger, between the seat and the center console an officer observed a large knife. The police ordered the front passenger to exit the vehicle. Next, a second officer looked into the trunk (which was visible through the rear side windows). He saw the “butt of a rifle.” Based on the observations, all occupants were ordered out of the car. A further search of the trunk revealed two rifles, a full-loaded clip that holds 25 rounds, three machetes, and 4 boxes of .22 caliber ammunition. The guns were unloaded. Despite the fact that BT comes from a state where it is legal to transport rifles and machetes in a car, he was arrested and charged with several gun crimes; the most serious of which carries a mandatory sentence of 2 ½ years in state prison. The police believed that BT intended to sell the weapons to local gang members.
After hiring Henry, BT and Henry met many times and discussed, amongst other issues, the reason the police stopped the car. BT insisted that he did not pull out erratically and that his sister could verify that as she sat behind BT in the car. Furthermore, BT explained that he had been pulled over minutes before by a different officer from the same police department. That officer cited BT for a red-light violation; he did not cite BT for a broken taillight.
Henry filed a Motion to Suppress. Specifically, he asked the court to “suppress” all evidence obtained after the stop. The basis for the motion was the “unlawful motor vehicle stop.” At the hearing two officers testified. The officers said that they were on detail, assigned to monitor gang activity. They had been watching the car and its occupants in the parking lot of a gas station located a high-crime area. They testified similarly to the way their reports were written. Next, BT’s sister testified. She testified that BT did not pull out erratically. She also described the way in which they had been pulled over moments before and not cited for a taillight violation. The primary issue of the hearing was the “credibility” of the witnesses.
The judge did not find the police testimony to be credible. He ruled that the stop was unlawful. He held that, based on the testimony, he did not believe that a motor vehicle infraction had actually occurred. Therefore, there was no legal reason for the police to have pulled over BT.
All evidence was suppressed. With no evidence remaining, the government could not continue to prosecute. The case was dismissed.