The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently decided Commonwealth v. Chown, wherein the Court announced rulings which govern the legal requirement to obtain a Massachusetts driver’s license upon becoming a Mass. resident.
A Barnstable Police Sergeant stopped Chown for speeding. He noticed that Chown had a valid Canadian Driver’s License and an expired Massachusetts License. If he was a non-resident, he would legally be allowed to drive on his out of state license. Alternatively, if he was a resident of Massachusetts, he was required to obtain a Mass. license. The law contains several factors used to determine whether someone is a resident or not. These factors include where the person is registered to vote, where the person declares his primary or principal residence for homeowner’s insurance purposes, whether he or she receives welfare or other public benefits from Massachusetts, and whether the person receives any benefits, deductions, privileges, or exceptions based on Massachusetts residency.
In this case, the police suspected that Chown was a Massachusetts resident. However, they undertook no investigation to address the above-listed factors. Therefore, Chown’s arrest was made without probable cause and declared invalid. Since his arrest for driving without a valid license, which is also known as unlicensed operation, was invalid, the cocaine and marijuana that was discovered as a result of his arrest must be suppressed. This will result in a not guilty verdict or dismissal of the charges of trafficking in a Class B controlled substance and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. A conviction of these charges would have triggered automatic 5 year and 3 year license revocations.