Appeals Court (September 12, 2007)

A warrant for the defendant's arrest on a crime of violence, coupled with the defendant's violent criminal history, constitutes sufficient "articulable facts" to justify a protective sweep.

The State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section executed an arrest warrant for the defendant on a charge of armed carjacking. The officers knew that the defendant had a violent criminal history, including firearm possession charges.

The defendant granted permission to the arresting officers to enter his home. After handcuffing the defendant, the officers followed protocol to locate the other occupants in the house. Occupants indicated that there was someone upstairs, and someone in the cellar. While in the cellar, the officers observed a handgun in plain view.

The trial court suppressed the handgun, agreeing with the defendant's assertion that, while the officers entered the home lawfully, the protective sweep was overbroad. A single justice of the SJC allowed the Commonwealth's petition to prosecute an interlocutory appeal.

The Appeals Court reversed the order of suppression. A protective sweep is proper when articulable facts, taken together with reasonable inferences, cause a reasonably prudent officer to believe that the area to be swept harbors an individual posing a danger. Here, the officers had articulable facts leading to a reasonable concern for their safety, based on the warrant for a violent crime as well as an adjudicated history of violence.