Friday, May 9, 2008

Nonmutual Collateral Estoppel In The Criminal Context

Is that the best headline you've ever seen, or what?

So here's the situation: you and your pal are stopped by the police and they find drugs in the car. You and your pal hire separate lawyers. Your pal's lawyer moves to suppress the drug evidence because it was based on an illegal search. He wins and walks. You then file a similar motion, claiming that the Commonwealth is bound by the earlier determination that the search was illegal. Must the judge find in your favor?

Yesterday, in Commonwealth v. Stephens, SJC No. 9943, the Supreme Judicial Court said no. Interestingly, if you'd been pulled over in New York, the answer would have been yes.

Given that there are two schools of thought on this, don't be surprised if it goes all the way.

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