The Brockton Enterprise reports on an arrest made by police yesterday in Raynham, Massachusetts. David E. Starvrou of North Main Street in Raynham was arrested for allegedly having a hoax bomb device in his possession.
Apparently the trouble for Mr. Starvrou all started when police thought he was a "suspicious person" because he was sitting in parked motor vehicle outside of a condominium complex at 3:30am. Police claim that when they approached Mr. Starvrou's car they could see items commonly used in the manufacturing of pipe bombs in plain view. The article is unclear as to what happened next, but according police, some "further investigation" was conducted and Mr. Starvrou was arrested for possession of a hoax device as well as disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.
Although the article is short on details, this case certainly looks like there are host of potential defenses for Mr. Starvrou. First and foremost a challenge may be in order to the search police conducted of Mr. Starvrou's car. The article states the police considered Mr. Starvrou a "suspicious person", but offers no details as to why police thought he was suspicious. In order for the police search of Mr. Starvrou's court to be upheld by the court prosecutors will need to show more than the fact that he was sitting in a car in a parking lot at 3:30am.
The police claim that Mr. Starvrou had items commonly used in the manufacturing of pipe bombs in plain view when they approached him. More information is needed to determine if those observations will stand up under court scrutiny. Pipe bombs are by nature improvised explosive devices. They are constructed using piping that would be available to any contracter, or even any homeowner who is engaged in do it yourself home improvement. If the "items commonly used in the manufacturing of pipe bombs" turns out to be nothing more than ordinary household or commercial piping the search of Mr. Starvrou's vehicle may be declared unconstitutional, and any evidence resulting from the search could be thrown out.
Even if prosecutors are able to prevent suppression of the evidence they may have additional problems in proving a case against Mr. Starvrou. The "hoax device" law that is being used to charge Mr. Starvrou is Massachusetts General Laws chapter 266 section 102. The statute makes it clear that possession of a hoax device is a serious offense. The charge is a felony, and if convicted, a defendant can be sentenced to a maximum of 5 years in state prison.
The statute also makes it clear that in order to convict a defendant under this section the prosecutor must prove not only that a person possessed a hoax device, but that he or she possessed it with the intent the device will "be used to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort to any person or group of persons". In order for prosecutors to prove Mr. Starvrou is guilty they will need to show that he intended to use the item in his possession to scare others or cause alarm to a specific person. Since the article indicates the items found were inside Mr. Starvrou's car, and he did not appear to be attempting to use them in any fashion, unless there is additional evidence not published in the article, it will be difficult for prosecutors to show he intended to do anything with the items police believed were a hoax device.
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