Case Law Updates

From 1999-2002, Judge Ken King (former JJC Clinical Professor) prepared an update of case law relevant to the defense of juveniles for the Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) annual conference. Additionally, the JJC tracks and presents recently decided cases in the realm of juvenile justice of which practitioners should be aware.

Summary of MA Case Law

Summary of Recent Massachusetts Appeals and Supreme Judicial Court Decisions Relevant to Juvenile Defense
  • Commonwealth v. Alfonso A., 438 Mass. 372 (2003)

    Juvenile arrested and charged with possession of a firearm based on his presence at an apartment where Boston police officers seized several firearms pursuant to the execution of a search warrant. Appeals court held that the juvenile was not provided with a 'genuine opportunity' to consult with an interested adult before making statements at the scene. SJC affirmed, holding that an adult, who is sufficiently interested in the juvenile's welfare, must be immediately and evidently available to the juvenile in order for there to be a genuine opportunity for consultation.
  • Commonwealth v. Alisha A., 438 Mass. 1104 (2003)

    A verdict, finding a juvenile delinquent on the basis of distributing a Class C controlled substance and doing so within 1,000 feet of a school, should be upheld, as the evidence was sufficient to prove that the pills she was found distributing qualified as a controlled substance despite the fact that the pills were destroyed at a hospital and were never tested.
  • Commonwealth v. Ben B., Mass. App.Ct., (2003)

    Juvenile accompanied sister, sister's friend and sister's three children on a shopping errand in downtown Boston. Sister's friend is carrying loaded gun in his waist band. When it began to slip down inside his pant leg, he let the gun slide into the stroller in which sister's one year old child was sitting. Sister remarks that it is not a good idea for the gun to be in the stroller; juvenile picks it up and places it in his pocket.Inside department store, juvenile is caught shoplifting; a pat and frisk search reveals the gun. Juvenile charged with unlawful possession of a firearm asserts defense of necessity. An integral element to this defense requires that there be imminent danger posed to either the defendant or, as here, a third person (one-year old in stroller.)Appeals court affirmed juvenile court judge decision to instruct jury in this defense. Held, incomplete evidence of imminent danger and even with such evidence, juvenile was not entitled to walk around the department store with the gun on his person for a 15 minute time period.
  • Commonwealth v. Cheney, 800 N.E. 2d 309 (2003)

    Article 30 of the Declaration of Rights of the MA Constitution does not permit a judge, prior to verdict, finding or plea, to dismiss a legally adequate criminal indictment in the "interests of public justice" over the Commonwealth's objection. Held, Superior Court erred in placing juvenile, indicted on four charges of rape of a child under the age of sixteen, on pre-trial probation and continuing case without a change of plea or an admission to specific facts as per juvenile's motion under M.G.L. Ch. 276, Sec. 87.
  • Commonwealth v. Clark C., 59 Mass. App. Ct. 542 (2003)

    Police Lieutenant spoke to juvenile's grandmother at her home regarding juvenile's participation in a home invasion (juvenile was not present). Several days later, juvenile phoned lieutenant; after some initial confusion, lieutenant informed juvenile that he had been at his home and spoken to his grandmother. Juvenile made incriminating statement and asked lieutenant if he should confess. Juvenile said he would come in to the station or call the following day. Juvenile failed to contact lieutenant; lieutenant went to juvenile's home with an arrest warrant obtained some days earlier. Lieutenant was admitted to home, and directed to juvenile's bedroom, where he was sleeping. Upon being awoken by Lieutenant, juvenile asked if his grandmother had turned him in and, when asked why he hadn't turned himself in, told Lieutenant that he was afraid. Appeals Court held that only the last two statements should be suppressed, finding that Miranda was inapplicable to initial statements because juvenile was not 'in custody,' but last statement by juvenile was a result of the functional equivalent of interrogation.
  • Commonwealth v. Furr, 58 Mass. App. Ct. 155 (2003)

    Juvenile adjudicated youthful offender on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, receiving a firearm with an altered serial number, attempted intimidation of a witness and obstruction of justice in 2000. Juvenile had previous youthful offender adjudications on charges of armed carjacking, kidnapping and assault and battery. On 2000 indictments, Commonwealth sought imposition of enhanced penalties available where defendant has previous adjudication of a violent crime or serious drug offense as defined in M.G.L. c 269, s 10G. Appeals court found that prior adjudication as a youthful offender alone is basis for invoking enhanced penalties provision, interpreting language in s 10G, when read in conjunction with M.G.L. c. 140, s. 121 (defining violent crime as acts of juvenile delinquency involving the use or possession of a deadly weapon that would be punishable by imprisonment for a term of one year if committed by an adult,) to consider adjudication as a youthful offender a conviction.
  • Commonwealth v. Ira I., 791 N.E2d 894 (2003)

    Vice principal was acting within scope of his employment and not as agent of the police when he questioned juveniles regarding an assault on a fellow student. Vice principal was not required to give Miranda warnings prior to obtaining juveniles' statements because the juveniles were not in custody and their statements were voluntary.
  • Commonwealth v. Lamont L., 438 Mass. 842 (2003)

    SJC held that when a juvenile is adjudicated a youthful offender on a misdemeanor, the appropriate remedy is for a delinquency finding to enter, rather than for the court to dismiss the indictment. Although juvenile here should not have been indicted on the misdemeanor in the first place; however, because the indictment properly stated an offense and the juvenile had full notice of the offense against him, the inclusion of an additional, improperly brought indictment did not prejudice him.
  • Commonwealth v. Lawrence L., 792 N.E.2d 109 (2003)

    When acting pursuant to a memorandum of understanding between a school and police department stating guidelines for reporting students' criminal behavior, a vice principal is not an agent of the police. In this case, the vice principal's decision to question and search the youth who smelled of marijuana, was in compliance with existing school search decisions and did not violate the juvenile's Federal and State constitutional rights when the results of the search were reported to the police.
  • Commonwealth v. Lucret, 797 N.E.2d 379 (2003)

    The youthful offender statute (M.G.L. c. 119, §58 (b)) allows judges the discretion to either sentence concurrently or consecutively so long as the combination sentence does not exceed the maximum adult sentence. The decision clarified any ambiguity in the statute regarding whether a youth sentence and adult sentence were to be served concurrently or consecutively after a probation violation.
  • Commonwealth v. Mark M., 59 Mass. App. Ct. 86 (2003)

    Juvenile investigated on charge of sexual assault. At a meeting with a Detective, juvenile and legal guardian received oral and written Miranda warnings. Prior to initial interview, juvenile did not consult with guardian, but rather, with her consent, agreed to speak with Detective in guardian's presence. Juvenile made incriminating statements to Detective in initial and a second, private meeting. Appeals Court held that it was improper for initial interview to commence without allowing the juvenile an opportunity to consult with his guardian; also held that trial court's findings lacked evidence as to whether statements made in second interview were sufficiently insulated from initial interview's illegality. Furthermore, court held there are no cases requiring the police to inform juvenile of his right to consult; rather, in order for there to be an actual opportunity to consult, the interested adult must understand that there is an opportunity and what his role is in respect to that consultation.
  • Commonwealth v. Olaf O., 57 Mass. App. Ct. 918 (2003)

    Juvenile adjudicated delinquent of one count of statutory rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery. On appeal, juvenile argued that he was entitled to a jury of 12 because he faced the possibility of 'infamous punishment' because the adjudication will cause his name to be listed on the sex offender registry. Appeals Court held prosecution did not involve risk of infamous punishment because it was tried as a juvenile case with no greater outcome than commitment to Department of Youth Services until the age of 18.
  • Commonwealth v. Ramirez, 56 Mass. App. Ct 317, 777 N.E. 2d 196 (2002)

    Where a strip search of a defendant, who had been arrested for being a minor in possession of alcohol, revealed cocaine in his underwear, the cocaine should have been ordered suppressed at the defendant's cocaine trafficking trial, as there was no probable cause for the strip search.


Judge Ken King (former JJC Clinical Professor) has prepared a treatise on law governing school administrators' searches of youth, including drug testing.

Staff Publications

Practitioners may find some current/former JJC staff publications, compendiums of Massachusetts case law and school search decisions, useful.


  • Lisa Thurau-Gray (Former JJC Staff Member)

    • With Ann Lambert, Esq., "District Attorney Roundtables Compromise Ethics and Client Care," The Provider, Vol. 25, No. 8, September 2004
    • Assessment of Maine Juvenile Defender System, ABA and NEJDC, 2003.Troubled Kids, Troubled Courts: A Call to New England's Juvenile Court Judges and State Policymakers, NEJDC, 2003.
    • "The Trend towards Turning Public Education into a Gated Community," Journal of Law & Public Policy, Summer 2002."
    • A Legal Assault on Children," Op-ed in The Boston Globe, October 7, 1999."
    • Trojan Ponies: Undermining the Establishment Clause in the Name of 'Child Benefit' Theory," 27 Journal of Law and Education 431 (1998).
  • Isabel Raskin

  • Judge Ken King (Former JJC Clinical Professor)

    • Child Welfare in Finland: Are Families Sacrificed on the Altar of Administrative Procedure?, N:04 Defensor Legis ( 2004 ).