Commonwealth v. Gorman

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation288 Mass. 294
Decision Date02 November 1934

288 Mass. 294


Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester.

November 2, 1934

September 24, 1934.

Present: RUGG, C.


Arrest. Police.

Jurisdiction. Motor Vehicle, Operation. Intoxicating Liquor. Pleading, Criminal, Complaint.

State police officers have the power throughout the Commonwealth to arrest without a warrant in cases in which such arrests are permitted by law. [288 Mass. 295]

The act of operating a motor vehicle upon a way while under the influence of intoxicating liquor is an offence involving a breach of the peace and justifies a State police officer in arresting without a warrant a person whom he sees in the act of committing that offence.

Section 21 of G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 90 does not by implication limit the common law authority of an officer to arrest without a warrant.

Where a defendant is physically before the court upon a complaint or indictment, either because he is held in custody after an arrest or because he has appeared in person after giving bail, the invalidity of his original arrest has no bearing upon whether he should be convicted and sentenced, even though the question of such invalidity was seasonably raised by him. The return of "a statement of his doings," which is required by G. L. (Ter.

Ed.) c. 218, Section 34, to be indorsed upon a complaint by an officer making an arrest without a warrant, is not essential to the validity of the complaint, but relates only to the service or the means by which the defendant is brought before the court; and, where the defendant comes physically before the court for trial, an omission to make such return of the arrest avails him not.

COMPLAINT, received and sworn to in the Central District Court of Worcester on November 20, 1933.

On appeal to the Superior Court, the complaint was tried before Buttrick, J., a judge of a district court sitting in the Superior Court under statutory authority. Material facts and rulings made by the judge are described in the opinion. The defendant was found guilty. The judge reported the case for determination by this court.

G. H. Yagjian, (F.

W. Cronin with him,) for the defendant.

E. G. Norman, District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

LUMMUS, J. The defendant, having in his possession a license to operate motor vehicles, was arrested without a warrant by a State police officer, who found the defendant in the act of operating a motor vehicle upon a way while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 90, Section 24. St. 1932, c. 26. After being committed to the lockup, the defendant gave bail for his appearance before the District Court. The recognizance, we assume, conformed to G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 276, Section 65. After complaint against the defendant had been made to the District Court, the arresting officer failed to "endorse upon the complaint a statement of his doings," as required by G. L. (Ter. Ed.) [288 Mass. 296] c. 218, Section 34.

No warrant was issued, an arrest on which might have validated the continuance of a custody invalid before. Kelly v. Griffin, 241 U.

S. 6. Stallings v.

Splain, 253 U.S. 339, 343.

In the District Court, before pleading to the merits of the complaint, the defendant made a motion to quash the complaint and also filed a "plea to the jurisdiction," based on the alleged unlawfulness of the arrest and of "the procedure in bringing him before the court." These were overruled, and the defendant was convicted. On appeal to the Superior Court, he renewed the motion and the plea. These were again overruled, and after trial a verdict of guilty was returned. A fine was imposed (see Commonwealth v. McCan, 277 Mass. 199 , 200; Commonwealth v. Boston & Maine Transportation Co. 282 Mass. 345 , 346; compare Commonwealth v. Baldi, 250 Mass. 528, 537), the execution of the sentence was suspended, and the judge reported the questions which the defendant sought to raise by the motion and the plea, namely, whether the arrest was unlawful and whether any illegality in the arrest and in the failure to indorse a return upon the complaint entitled the defendant to be discharged instead of being tried and convicted.

The defendant contended that the right of an officer to arrest without a warrant for an offence relating to the operation or control of motor vehicles is limited by G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 90, Section 21, to the arrest of an operator who does not have in his possession a license to operate motor vehicles; and that only an investigator or examiner appointed by the registrar of motor vehicles may arrest without a warrant, for the offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, one who possesses such a license.

We think, however, that the statute relied on does by implication cut down the common law authority of an officer. State police officers have throughout the Commonwealth "all the powers of constables, except the service of civil process, and of police officers and watchmen." G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 22, Section 9A. Constables have common [288 Mass. 297] law power as peace officers to make arrests without warrants in cases in which such arrests are permitted by law. Hartley v. Granville, 216 Mass. 38. Commonwealth v. Hastings, 9 Met. 259. In Sharrock v. Hannemer, Cro. Eliz. 375, 376, Beaumond [Beaumont], J., said, "A constable and sheriff are conservators of the peace at the common law."

The offence of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor is classified by our statute as a misdemeanor. G. L. (Ter. Ed.) c. 274, Section 1; c. 90, Section 24. St. 1932, c. 26. For the common law, see Commonwealth v. Carey, 12 Cush. 246, 252; Jones v. Robbins, 8 Gray, 329, 347-350; Kurtz v. Moffitt, 115 U.S. 487, 499. A peace officer, in the absence of statute (Commonwealth v. Wright, 158 Mass. 149 , 159; Creeden v. Boston & Maine Railroad, 193 Mass. 280), may arrest without a warrant for a misdemeanor which (1) involves a breach of the peace, (2) is committed in the presence or view of the officer (Commonwealth v. McLaughlin, 12 Cush. 615; McLennon v. Richardson, 15 Gray, 74; Commonwealth v. Ruggles, 6 Allen, 588, 590; Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 156, 157), and (3) is still continuing at the time of the arrest or only interrupted, so that the offence and the arrest form parts of one transaction. Commonwealth v. Hastings, 9 Met. 259, 263. Leddy v. Crossman, 108 Mass. 237 . Scott v. Eldridge, 154 Mass. 25 . Eldredge v. Mitchell, 214 Mass. 480, 483. Price v. Seeley, 10 Cl. & Fin. 28. Regina v. Light, 7 Cox C. C. 389. See also Am. Law Inst. Restatement: Torts, Sections 119, 121, 140, 141. In Regina v. Tooley, 2 Ld. Raym. 1296, 1301; S. C. 11 Mod. 242, 250, Lord Chief Justice Holt states the rule as follows: A "constable cannot arrest but where he sees an actual breach of the peace; and if the affray be over, . . . he cannot arrest." In the same case, reported in Holt, 485, 490, sub nomine Case of the Reforming Constables, his statement reads, "A constable may arrest a man that breaks the peace in his view, but if it be done out of his view, he cannot." In the present case the only point upon which there can be doubt as to the right to arrest without a...

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