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How Do The Massachusetts State Police Investigate Crimes?

Who Are the Massachusetts State Police?

The Massachusetts State Police are the state law enforcement agency responsible for many law enforcement activities in the state. The Massachusetts State Police investigate crimes that do not qualify as federal crimes. Many crimes – even homicide – are not federal crimes unless they involve a crime against a federal agent or the federal government. The Massachusetts State Police are responsible for most criminal law enforcement in the state and traffic law enforcement. 

The State Police share jurisdiction with local police or have primary jurisdiction in towns that don’t have a local police force. Massachusetts State police are responsible for highway patrol and traffic enforcement and receive authority to investigate homicides from the county DA in the area. The exception to this is in Boston, Springfield and Worcester, where the local police departments have the authority to work with the DA to investigate homicides. 

There are many branches of the Massachusetts State police with different purposes, such as the Motor Vehicle Regulatory Section, the Special Emergency Response Team, Marine Section, Gang Unit and Detective Units, who investigate serious crimes.

What Do The State Police Do When They Investigate a Crime?

The Massachusetts State Police can investigate a crime by observing the facts and circumstances surrounding a crime, speaking to witnesses, and questioning, detaining or arresting people they suspect of being involved in a crime. In the case of the Massachusetts Highway Patrol, this could involve observing the behavior of a driver and making a traffic stop. If someone reports a crime to the police, the police can take notes, speak to witnesses, investigate the scene of the crime and speak to potential suspects. As they are investigating the crime, the police report their findings to prosecutors. 

If you are under suspicion of a crime, it’s important to be aware that any interactions you have with the police become facts within a police investigation, and can be used as evidence that counts towards an arrest or a conviction. You are under no obligation to talk to the police without an attorney present. If you think you are being investigated as a suspect of a crime, you should retain an experienced Boston Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. 

Do I Have to Speak to the Police? 

The only situation in which you will be obliged to provide information to the police is if you are driving a motor vehicle and you are asked to provide your identity. You can be charged with a crime if you don’t provide this information on request. Passengers in the vehicle don’t have to identify themselves. You should never supply the police with a false identity or lie to the police, as this could provoke reasonable suspicion that could lead to your arrest. You don’t have to provide your identity even if the police have a warrant to search your home or if you are under arrest. However, if you are under arrest you can be charged with a crime if you lie to police about your identity. 

What Is Probable Cause? 

If the police have “probable cause,” to believe someone has committed a crime, they can move to the next stage of the investigation – they can make an arrest. “Probable cause” is a standard that is lower than the preponderance of evidence standard used in civil cases. “Probable cause” means that a reasonable person would have cause to suspect someone could be involved in a crime. Probable cause can’t be based on hunch, it must be based on facts and observation of circumstance that can lead to an arrest. If a police officer wants to arrest someone on suspicion of a crime, they have to present evidence to a judge that they have probable cause to arrest someone. If this is sufficient, the judge can grant them a warrant for an arrest. 

Police don’t have to have a warrant for someone’s arrest. They can arrest someone and then it can be determined later by a judge whether the arrest was legal. 

Can The Police Detain Me Without Arresting Me?

Police can detain anyone for questioning in any public or private place without a warrant. The police can only detain someone temporarily. To detain someone, the police use a lower standard than the probable cause standard. Police can detain you if they have “reasonable suspicion” you are connected to a crime. Like probable cause, reasonable suspicion has to be based on more than a hunch. It has to be based on facts, such as observable unusual behavior. The standard is lower than probable cause, which is concrete evidence connecting someone to a crime. These standards are open to interpretation by the judge and the police officer who is investigating the case. 

Many detainments or arrests may not be reasonable. It’s critical to have an attorney who can defend your Fourth Amendment rights during a police investigation. Just as during an arrest, you don’t have to answer any questions or speak to the police at all. Your attorney will advise you of the best course of action. 

How Can A Criminal Law Attorney Help Me If I Believe I Am Being Investigated by Massachusetts State Police?

Your Boston Criminal law attorney can advise you of your rights and the laws that apply to the police investigation of the crime. The most well-known rights and laws that apply to a police investigation are the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and “Miranda,” or the right to remain silent, established in the US Supreme Court case Miranda vs. Arizona. There will likely be other laws, especially certain Massachusetts laws, which could apply to a police investigation into a crime during which you are questioned, detained or arrested by the Massachusetts State Police. You should retain an experienced Boston Criminal Law Attorney who has a specialized knowledge of the laws and rights that pertain to any State police investigation that could affect you.

Even if a person isn’t charged or convicted with a crime, an investigation by the Massachusetts State Police can be stressful and upsetting. During a State police investigation, you need a dedicated Boston Criminal Law Attorney by your side to make sure that your rights are protected – and, if at all possible, you do not have to endure the stress and damage to reputation that can result from a criminal trial. At Dhar Law, LLP, we have represented many suspects from diverse backgrounds during police investigations, and fought for numerous defendants accused of serious crimes and misdemeanors. One of the most vulnerable positions you can be in is to be under investigation by law enforcement officers when English isn’t your first language. Our dedicated translators can assist your criminal defense attorney during any interactions with police. Please contact us at (617) 880-6155 to find out how we can support you if you are accused of a crime or under investigation by the Massachusetts State Police. 


Have you or a family member been charged or arrested? It’s important not to make mistakes early on in your case. Download our PDF on the top 3 things to do to help your defense or if you have been arrested by the State Police or FBI or you are the subject of an FBI Arrest Warrant.

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Heading up the firm, Vikas Dhar is widely recognized as a leader in the New England legal community. An accomplished business litigator and a “Top 40 Under 40” criminal defense attorney, he has also been honored as a New England Super Lawyer/Rising Star in the area of White-Collar Criminal Defense for each of the past six years by Boston Magazine.

I have the power and the skill to be able to save people from themselves. I can be your guide during the darkness. I can hold your hand and navigate you out of the darkness into the light.

— Vikas Dhar
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