Massachusetts Appellate Court invokes exigent circumstances for obtaining real time CSLI

This case starts with a disturbing call overheard based on a federal wiretap order. An officer in the “wire room” was monitoring a call where statements about shooting someone up with a gun were heard by an officer in real time. The judge who listened to a recording of the call found that she sounded “angry, upset, and emotional.” The wire room officer found the call “alarming”. That officer checked her telephone number in various databases and identified her as the defendant.

Law enforcement subsequently engaged in obtaining real-time CSLI to monitor the defendant. They did so without a warrant. The Defendant made a motion to suppress the CSLI which was denied. This interlocutory appeal followed. The defendant argued here that law enforcement did not establish that exigent circumstances existed to obtain real time CSLI.

The appellate court decided that the State had shown exigent circumstances because the police overheard a phone call in which an angry, upset individual said she was “going to get the … gun” and was “about to go shoot up [someone] right now . … I’m going to his, I’m going right there, right now.” The police identified the person making the threat as the defendant. The judge listened to a recording of the call and found that “the police were reasonable in having grave concerns about the defendant imminently causing serious bodily harm.”

The Defendant argued that the sole evidence was her statement and that that wasn’t enough. The Appellate Court looked to existing State court precedent and disagreed. They found that since the police did not know the the whereabouts of the defendant, it was objectively reasonable for the police to request real-time CSLI.

The case is Commonwealth v. Raspberry, 93 Mass. App. Ct. 633, 2018 Mass. App. LEXIS 97, 2018 WL 3596082, (Mass. App. Ct.), (July 27).

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