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Description of Car Does Not Have to Match Perfectly to Give Police Reasonable Suspicion for Stop

Dudley Goar, Attorney at Law

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (S.J.C.) reversed a district court judge’s order suppressing the stop of a motor vehicle by police in the caseComm. v. Rohena. The district court judge had ruled that the police did not have “reasonable suspicion” to stop the car, because a 911 caller had identified a black car of a different make than the one that was stopped, even though the police recognized the occupants of the car as having been at a “gang house” minutes before a reported shooting at that address. The S.J.C. reasoned that there was a sufficient match between the caller’s description and the actual vehicle that, combined with officer’s own recognition of the two men, and familiarity with the area created reasonable suspicion for the stop. The S.J.C., relying on the caseComm. v. Ancrum,65 Mass. App. Ct. 647 (2006) observed that “It is inappropriate to assume [that reasonable suspicion] cannot exist absent a full match-up of all parts of the description.”

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