MA: Apt building hallway near apt was neither a constitutionally protected area nor curtilage

The hallway near defendant’s apartment in a multi-unit apartment building was not a constitutionally protected area nor within the apartment’s curtilage. Defense counsel wasn’t ineffective for not moving to suppress his arrest and search in the common area. Commonwealth v. Sorenson, 2020 Mass. App. LEXIS 172 (Nov. 16, 2020):

In sum, the present record does not support the defendant’s position that the hallway was an area that “harbors the ‘intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a [person’s] home and the privacies of life’” (quotation omitted). Dunn, 480 U.S. at 300, quoting Oliver, 466 U.S. at 180. In fact, the defendant cites no authority holding that the common hallway of a multiunit apartment complex is curtilage. Our own review reveals no Massachusetts case addressing such a common hallway; indeed, cases in other jurisdictions addressing a similar claim hold that a common hallway of a multiunit apartment complex is not curtilage in contexts comparable to those present in this case. See United States v. Trice, 966 F.3d 506, 515 (6th Cir. 2020) (applying Dunn factors and holding “hallway in … a common area open to the public to be used by other apartment tenants to reach their respective units” not curtilage). See also United States v. Makell, 721 Fed. Appx. 307, 308 (4th Cir. 2018) (per curiam) (“the common hallway of the apartment building, including the area in front of [the defendant’s] door, was not within the curtilage of his apartment”); Lindsey v. State, 226 Md. App. 253, 281 n.8, 127 A.3d 627 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2015) (area in front of defendant’s apartment door not curtilage); State v. Edstrom, 916 N.W.2d 512, 520 (Minn. 2018) (“privacies” of home life “do not extend … immediately outside [defendant’s] apartment”); State v. Nguyen, 2013 ND 252, 841 N.W.2d 676, 682 (N.D. 2013), cert. denied, 576 U.S. 1054, 135 S. Ct. 2888, 192 L. Ed. 2d 924 (2015) (“common hallway is not … within the curtilage of [defendant’s] apartment”).

Accordingly, we hold that the judge did not abuse his discretion in concluding that trial counsel’s assistance was not ineffective by not bringing a motion to suppress on this basis. Johnston, 467 Mass. at 688 (performance of counsel not ineffective where motion to suppress would not have succeeded).

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