Just two days ago an article on masslive.com revealed a bold and hopefully accurate prediction by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants . . . that mandatory minimum sentences will be repealed. A decade or two ago a majority of the Massachusetts criminal defense bar could not imagine this would ever become a real discussion. However, less than three years ago mandatory minimum sentences for some drug crimes were reduced and the threshold weight of drugs for certain trafficking offenses was increased. Perhaps the legislature now understands what Justice Gants’ means when he stated that abolishing these types of sentences “makes fiscal sense, justice sense, policy sense and common sense”. Continue reading →
Recently my office has seen a rash of criminal cases originating when the operator of a motor vehicle is stopped for suspicion of texting while driving. The newly enacted law, G.L. c. 90 Section 13B states that anyone caught sending or reading an electronic message while driving will be fined. Fines range from one hundred dollars for a first offense to two hundred fifty dollars for a second offense and to five hundred dollars for a third and all subsequent offenses. Unlike an OUI case, operation for this statute does not include texting while a vehicle is stationary. The police are jumping on this law as justification for stopping people they suspect are up to something other than simply texting. The stops are resulting OUI complaints and various Massachusetts drug crimes charges. Luckily, the law against texting and driving in Massachusetts is one that is difficult to prove and a large majority of these stops will be suppressed. Continue reading →
Heroin has become the most problematic drug for prosecutors to deal with in Massachusetts. The number of heroin possession arrests builds everyday. No community is immune. From the most impoverished cities to the most affluent suburbs heroin use and addiction to the drug has run rampant. There is however a lack of consistency in the resolution of these cases from court to court in the Commonwealth. Getting a heroin conspiracy and possession case dismissed can be routine and easy for your lawyer in some courts and an extremely arduous endeavor in others. This post examines how some courts handle these cases and what you should expect from your lawyer if you are charged with a heroin related drug crime in Massachusetts. Continue reading →
During the course of an unrelated investigation police in Methuen, Massachusetts saw Jose Quesada get into a car bearing New Hampshire license plates. The officers followed the car and learned that the driver, a Salem man had a suspended license. The officers made an inquiry and found the driver in possession of heroin. He was charged with heroin possession and a motor vehicle crime. Meanwhile, the man admitted that he purchased the drugs from Quesada. Quesada was arrested and charged with selling heroin and possession of heroin. The case in pending in the Lawrence District Court. Continue reading →
Since marijuana possession of up to an ounce was decriminalized in Massachusetts more and more people have been taking liberties with their use and distribution of the drug. There is a false sense of security that prevails among young people in particular that using and distributing marijuana is legal. People hide under the “protection” of medical marijuana cards. They openly and publicly smoke the drug. And yes, many people have created small businesses where they sell pot for profit or simply to pay for their personal supply. So it is not surprising that marijuana sales prosecutions are becoming more common these days. The defendants are mostly young kids, ages eighteen to thirty. When they get caught and face charges the first thing they ask me is “will I go to jail for selling marijuana?”. This post answers this question. Continue reading →
Being on probation is in some instances worse than having an open case. You will likely have obligations to the probation department that have been ordered by the Court. You might have to pay monthly fees. You may have to make restitution payments on a regular basis. You could be obligated to report weekly, monthly or even daily. Drug testing or psychological evaluations are possibilities. You might have to abstain from otherwise legal activities as a condition of probation. If you do not comply with the court ordered conditions your probation officer can issue a probation violation notice requiring you to go to court and explain why you have failed to honor your probation obligations. If you then fail to appear in court a warrant will issue. If you are in default on probation and there is an outstanding warrant there are some things you can do to help yourself. Continue reading →
In Massachusetts there is a major difference between possession of drugs and possession with the intent to distribute drugs. With the exception of marijuana possession with the intent to distribute drugs is a felony. Law enforcement can be aggressive by charging people with drug felonies at times when only possession of the substance should be charged. Frequently people charged with Massachusetts drug felonies retain me to fight the charges claiming they possessed the drug for personal use and never intended to distribute the substance. This is common and has prompted me to write on the difference between possession and possession with intent to distribute drugs in Massachusetts.
Just a couple of weeks ago the owner of a two family home in Amesbury, Massachusetts saw some “strange equipment inside a common area” of the property. Consequently, she called the police. They quickly obtained a search warrant and notified members of the DEA. The search warrant was executed and authorities found materials used to manufacture crystal meth and GHB. No suspects have yet been arrested. This post examines what can happen to the suspects when they are arrested, how the prosecution will try to prove its case and some defenses to the potential charges. Continue reading →
Massachusetts Rule of Criminal Procedure 14 mandates that the district attorney surrender to the defense virtually everything in its custody or control that is at all relevant to the case. The rule lays out some specific items that fall within its purview however case law is clear that the list is not exhaustive. The list includes statements made by the accused whether or not those statements were recorded. Grand jury minutes and statements of witnesses must be provided. A list of civilian witnesses, law enforcement personnel and expert witnesses must be surrendered. All documents generated and evidence obtained must be given to the defense in a timely manner. Identification procedures must be disclosed. All promises or inducements made to witnesses need to be articulated to the defense as well. Finally, there is a catchall phrase that “any facts of an exculpatory nature” have to be turned over. When prosecutors fail to turn over discovery in criminal cases there can be consequences, some of which are explored below. Continue reading →
This past weekend police in Amesbury, Massachusetts executed a search warrant at a home in a quiet residential neighborhood. At home during the raid, and charged with various drug crimes were Christopher Doty and Kristen Cataldo, both in their mid twenties. The search warrant was issued after police had obtained information regarding drug activity in the home. The information apparently came from informants and possibly a sustained surveillance or controlled drug buys. The defendants have been charged with an assortment of crimes including possession with the intent to distribute class A and class B drugs, assault and battery on a police officer, child endangerment and possession of a dangerous weapon.