Thanks to Leadership Council member and attorney Bob Fleischner for passing on news of this recent Supreme Judicial Court decision:

SJC rules that emergency shelter residents have an expectation of privacy; suppresses evidence found by police in a warrantless search.

On March 11, 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion in Commonwealth v. Porter P., an appeal from a juvenile court. The Court ruled that families residing in emergency shelter have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their bedrooms and that the shelter staff had neither actual nor apparent authority to give police consent to conduct a warrantless search, notwithstanding that the shelter director had a key and the shelter’s policies said that staff could enter at any time to check for rules violations. On this point, the SJC ruled: “The room that the juvenile and his mother shared at the shelter was a transitional living space, but it was nonetheless their home. The juvenile slept and kept his belongings in the room. He and his mother possessed a key to the room, allowing them the degree of privacy inherent in a locked door. The fact that he did not own the room, that he was limited in his use of the room, and that shelter staff members had a master key and could enter the room “for professional business purposes” does not diminish the legitimacy of his privacy interest in the room.” In light of the illegality of the search, the Court affirmed the trial court decision to suppress the gun that was found in the room.

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