Decision Commonwealth v. Adams

Date: 06/27/2019
Organization: Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

Commonwealth v. Mark Adams
Supreme Judicial Court, June 27, 2019
(Crimes/Unlawful Interference with a Police Officer/Firearms)


“[W]e conclude that interference with the lawful duties of a police officer was, and continues to be, a common-law crime, albeit subject to carefully constructed limitations to avoid criminalizing constitutionally protected activities.“


In this case, the licensing authority deemed the defendant unsuitable to have a firearms license based on a report of domestic violence with a child present in the home.  When the police arrived at the defendant’s home to issue him the notice of surrender and revocation, he was argumentative, repeatedly demanded to call his attorney and told his wife not to allow the officers into the home.  The defendant was placed under arrest, and eventually convicted of, hindering a police officer in the performance of a lawful duty.  The Court overturned the conviction ruling that, “although the defendant's refusal to surrender his firearms and ammunition may have violated G. L. c. 269, § 10 (i), his noncompliance with the demand that he surrender his firearms cannot form the basis of a charge of common-law interference with a police officers.”  


Because G. L. c. 140, §§ 129D and 131 (f), are in conflict on whether or not an individual deemed “unsuitable” to hold a firearms license is entitled to a hearing before surrendering his firearms or he must immediately surrender the firearms, the Court concluded that a licensing authority has two options when they are implementing the suspension or revocation of a license:


  1. “[T]he licensing authority has discretion to provide notice to an individual believed no longer to be suitable to possess a license, and to seek immediate surrender of that individual's license, firearms, and ammunition. The failure to surrender firearms "without delay," in these circumstances, could subject the license holder to criminal sanctions pursuant to G. L. c. 269, § 10 (i)”; or


  1. “[T]he licensing authority may, in the exercise of its discretion, notify the license holder of a revocation or suspension without seeking immediate surrender of any firearms. In such an instance, the commencing of an appeal would stay the obligation to surrender firearms "without delay."

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