Commonwealth v. Cordeiro

Decision Date20 January 2023
Docket Number22-P-65
CourtAppeals Court of Massachusetts

102 Mass.App.Ct. 211
202 N.E.3d 546

David J. CORDEIRO, Jr.

No. 22-P-65

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Bristol.

Argued September 12, 2022
Decided January 20, 2023

Stephen C. Nadeau, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

Suzanne Renaud, for the defendant.

Present: Neyman, Ditkoff, & Hershfang, JJ.


102 Mass.App.Ct. 211

The defendant, David J. Cordeiro, Jr., was charged in the District Court with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of narcotic drugs, G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (a ) (1) ; negligent operation of a motor vehicle, G. L. c. 90, § 24 (2) (a ) ; operating a motor vehicle after a license suspension, G. L. c. 90, § 23 ; and possession of heroin, G. L. c. 94C, § 34. A judge dismissed the motor vehicle charges on the ground that the application for a criminal complaint failed to establish probable cause of operation.

102 Mass.App.Ct. 212

The Commonwealth missed the deadline to appeal, and a different District Court judge orally allowed the Commonwealth's motion for an extension of time to appeal, without endorsing the Commonwealth's motion. We conclude that such an oral order is adequate to provide us with appellate jurisdiction over this appeal. Further concluding that the application provided sufficient facts to warrant a person of reasonable caution in believing that the defendant operated the motor vehicle in question, we reverse.

1. Background. a. The accident. On Saturday, June 12, 2021, an "extremely rainy" day, a State trooper responded to a call that an individual needed assistance changing a tire. The trooper observed a motor vehicle with extensive damage in the breakdown lane and the defendant unconscious on the ground with his head "resting between the front bumper and the driver's side wheel well." The trooper called for medical assistance and then dragged the defendant to the relative safety of the guardrail.

The defendant grunted and his eyes fluttered in a manner that the trooper recognized as "consistent with an individual

202 N.E.3d 549

overdosing." The trooper asked the defendant whether he was overdosing, and the defendant nodded. The defendant then seemed to drift in and out of consciousness while the trooper tried to assist him and other troopers arrived at the scene.

After approximately ten minutes, the defendant said he "didn't know what the fuck was going on" and tried to break through the surrounding troopers. Concerned that the defendant would enter the roadway in his intoxicated state, the troopers physically restrained him.

A second trooper went to the motor vehicle and observed multiple pills in the center console, a glass smoking pipe with black residue on the floor, and a white powdery substance that he believed to be heroin. The vehicle also contained the defendant's identification, wallet, and cell phone. The first trooper observed that "[t]he driver's seat was adjusted to the proper dimensions including distance to accommodate [the defendant's] stature." He also observed "the passenger seat floor board to be dry, compared to the driver's side floor board which was wet (dark wet spots consistent with a wet imprint)."

When emergency medical services arrived, the defendant told a medic that he had taken four Vicodin. After he was transported to the hospital, the defendant's girlfriend (and owner of the vehicle)

102 Mass.App.Ct. 213

appeared at the hospital.1 She informed the trooper that the defendant "must have taken her car in the morning" and had probably met up with his drug dealer.

After the defendant was medically cleared, he was transported to the State police barracks for booking. While in the cruiser, he "was extremely confused" and stated that he did not understand what had happened or how the vehicle had suffered so much damage. He stated that he "must have hit something" and "he ‘believed he briefly, remembered’ a tractor trailer tire hitting the left side of the car."

During the booking process, the defendant stated that "he was not driving the vehicle and that one of his friends that he was with must have taken off leaving him in the roadway while he was inspecting damage." He also stated that the items seized from the vehicle "were either left behind or planted by his friend." The State police had not received any calls for a pedestrian on the roadway at the time of the accident. The defendant was issued a citation for the motor vehicle offenses.

Afterwards, the defendant contacted the trooper and stated that his friend "Blue" "had crashed his car into a guardrail and that he had taken off after the incident."

b. Procedural history. On Monday, June 14, 2021, a criminal complaint issued charging the defendant with the three motor vehicle offenses and with possession of heroin. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the motor vehicle offenses for want of probable cause. See Commonwealth v. DiBennadetto, 436 Mass. 310, 313, 764 N.E.2d 338 (2002). At the hearing on August 31, 2021, the defendant argued that the application for complaint failed to "establish probable cause that [the defendant] was ever operating the vehicle." A judge (first judge) took the matter under advisement and suggested that he would rule later that day. The case was continued until October 5, 2021.

On August 31, 2021, the first judge allowed the motion as to the motor vehicle counts, endorsing it, "After hearing, motion is allowed." For reasons that are not

202 N.E.3d 550

evident, the district attorney's office did not receive notice of the order.

On October 4, defense counsel notified the prosecutor by e-mail that the motion had been allowed. On October 5, the

102 Mass.App.Ct. 214

Commonwealth filed a motion to extend the time to file a notice of appeal. At the hearing that day before a second judge, the prosecutor informed the judge of her motion. The judge stated, "That's fine, you guys can appeal it." He noted, "I've had this conversation with the Clerk's Office. I don't know why you guys don't get copies ... in your email or something like that."

When the clerk asked how to docket the motor vehicle counts, the second judge confirmed that the docket should reflect that "the Commonwealth's rights to appeal are preserved." The clerk duly noted that on the docket: "Com. to appeal, rights are preserved."

The defendant then pleaded guilty to possession of heroin. The tender of plea form reflected that the parties agreed that the defendant would receive sixty-five days in a house of correction, deemed served.2 The form also reflected that the motor vehicle charges were dismissed and the Commonwealth's "rights to appeal [motion] to dismiss are preserved." When the second judge imposed the agreed-upon sentence, he also stated "that the Commonwealth's rights to appeal at this point are preserved as they just got the notice of the decision yesterday." The next day, the Commonwealth filed a notice of appeal.

2. Appellate jurisdiction. To appeal an order of dismissal, the Commonwealth must file a notice of appeal "within thirty days of the date of entry of the order being appealed." Mass. R. Crim. P. 15 (b) (1), as amended, 476 Mass. 1501 (2017)....

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1 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Howe
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • 15 Septiembre 2023
    ...481 Mass. 1606 (2019), is not reviewed unless the adverse party appeals from the judge's determination. See Commonwealth v. Cordeiro, 102 Mass.App.Ct. 211, 215 (2023). [3] The fact that the judge ultimately found the defendant not responsible on the marked lanes violation has no bearing on ......

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