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Case Could Clarify Massachusetts Law On Traffic Stop Searches

Mary C. Serreze
The Republican
The Franklin County Justice Center in Greenfield, where the Supreme Judicial Court is holding a special sitting.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear four cases in Greenfield on Tuesday. One of them involves a man named Anthony Ortiz, and it could impact state law on the search of a car during a traffic stop.

In 2015, Ortiz was pulled over by police in Holyoke for playing his radio too loudly. He didn't have a license, and police asked him if there were any drugs or guns in the car. Ortiz responded, "No, you can check."

The police found nothing inside. But when they popped the hood and pulled out the air filter, they discovered two guns.

Patrick Levin, with the Massachusetts Public Defender's Office, represents Ortiz.

"The question in the case in front of the court now is whether, when the driver of a car says, 'You can look in my car,' whether that means they're allowed to go under the hood and start taking the engine apart, essentially," he said.

A lower court suppressed the gun evidence, saying the police had overstepped their bounds, but the state is appealing the decision.

The session in Greenfield is one of a series the state's highest court holds around Massachusetts to help citizens better understand its work.

The prosecution's brief:

Prosecution's Appeal in Ortiz Case by New England Public Radio on Scribd

The defense's brief:

Defense's Response in Ortiz Case by New England Public Radio on Scribd

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