Commonwealth v. Reyes (Amicus)

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Amicus Curiae

Unlawful Storage and Carrying in a Vehicle.

Issues Presented

  1. Whether a lone person in an automobile is in direct control of a firearm when the firearm is not on their person but within arms reach.
  2. Whether an automobile is a locked container within the meaning of M.G.L. c. 140, § 131L.
  3. Whether either statute, M.G.L. c. 140, § 131C(a) or M.G.L. c. 140, § 131L, violates the void-for-vagueness doctrine as the statutes were applied by the Commonwealth at trial.

Amaury Reyes was convicted on charges of violating M.G.L. c. 140, § 131L(a) and M.G.L. c. 140, § 131C(a) after he secured his personal firearm in his locked automobile. The Commonwealth argued on appeal that the conviction obtained on Count II, a violation ofM.G.L. c. 140, § 131L(a), is valid on the basis that a vehicle is not a locked container within the meaning of that statute.  The Commonwealth also contends that the presence of the firearm in the glove box is evidence that Reyes transported his firearm in violation of M.G.L. c. 140, § 131C(a).

Comm2A argues that the statutes, M.G.L. c. 140, § 131 C and § 131 L, were enacted to serve different purposes and must be read as such.  Section 131 C addresses the transportation of guns in vehicles and specifically addresses how those holding a Class A License To Carry Firearms ("LTC-A") may carry a loaded handgun in their vehicle, in contrast to how other guns, and holders of lesser licenses, may do so.   We also address the meaning of "locked container" as found in § I31L, whether a glove box or center console inside a locked vehicle constitutes such a secure container, whether the glove box or console itself must also be locked, or whether neither can ever constitute a "locked container" under the statute. 

The SJC determined the Mr. Reyes was entitled to a directed verdict of not guilty on the charge of carrying in a vehicle.  They also reversed the storage conviction based upon insufficient jury instructions and remanded that case to the district court for further proceedings.   The court failed to adopt Comm2A's position that a locked vehicle itself constitutes a secure container.  Although the locked trunk of  a vehicle meets the statutory definition of a secure container, the locked passenger compartment of a vehicle does not even though a locked trunk can be opened from the interior of most modern automobiles.  Comm2A's brief was submitted by attorney Keith G. Langer.