MA: Use of some additional force in arresting def was not “disproportionate” based on what police knew about firearms in car and risk of violence

The use of some additional force in arresting defendant was not “disproportionate” based on information defendant was armed and that his girlfriend, traveling with him, could use violence to “upset” his arrest. Commonwealth v. Widener, 2017 Mass. App. LEXIS 85 (June 15, 2017):

Here, based on a multiagency and multijurisdictional investigation, the police had information that the defendant was transporting drugs and firearms from Florida to Massachusetts. Police were also aware that the defendant would be accompanied by Tobin, his girl friend, whom the informant “had identified … as accompanying [the defendant] down south on these trips to purchase guns and Percocets.” Thus, the officer who approached Tobin had reason to believe that (1) the passenger in the vehicle was the defendant’s girl friend, (2) she had witnessed the defendant’s flight and arrest, and (3) there were firearms in the vehicle. In these circumstances, we discern no error in the motion judge’s conclusion that the passenger “reasonably could be viewed by the police as a confederate of [the defendant], … prepared to assist him in a variety of different ways, including the violent upset of his arrest.”

We are not persuaded by the defendant’s claim that the force used in seizing Tobin was “disproportionate.” “In evaluating whether the police exceeded the permissible scope of the stop, the issue is one of proportion. ‘The degree of suspicion the police reasonably harbor must be proportional to the level of intrusiveness of the police conduct.’” Commonwealth v. Sinforoso, 434 Mass. 320, 323, 749 N.E.2d 128 (2001), quoting from Commonwealth v. Williams, 422 Mass. 111, 116, 661 N.E.2d 617 (1996). Because Tobin refused to show her hands when ordered to do so, and continued to move within the vehicle, the officer’s heightened concerns for his safety were entirely reasonable. See Commonwealth v. Obiora, 83 Mass. App. Ct. 55, 59, 981 N.E.2d 203 (2013). We conclude that the exit order that revealed the firearm in plain view was justified based upon the officer’s objectively reasonable concern for his safety, and therefore we discern no error in the denial of the motion to suppress.

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