Today’s Metrowest Daily News reports that Massachusetts House of Representative leaders are considering a proposal that would increase the potential sentence of for heroin trafficking offenses. The suggested law is a reaction to the recent increase in heroin overdose deaths. This legislation would increase the maximum sentence that can be imposed on heroin dealers from twenty years in state prison to thirty years in state prison. Further details of the law were not discussed in the article. This post discusses this proposition. Continue reading →
Today’s Newburyport News reports that a two week long drug investigation has led to the arrest of two Amesbury, Massachusetts residents. Jesus Ruiz and Sandra Magrath were apparently present when officers raided their Whitehall Road home a couple of days ago. Both were charged with trafficking cocaine and a heroin related felony as well as conspiracy to violate the Massachusetts drug laws. None of the details of the investigation were disclosed however it has been reported that a related search of another home resulted in three more related drug arrests. The dearth of details here suggests the use of a confidential informant to provide information about how Magrath and Ruiz were operating. This post looks at the problems prosecutors often have winning cases where informants are used.
Here we go again. Police in Lawrence, Massachusetts see a car with Maine license plates. The car contained two female occupants later identified as Donna Jarvis and Tara Burton. The actions of the women suggested to the police that a drug deal was in the works. Another car arrived, in which the transfer of money for drugs took place. The vehicles separated and drove away. Both were stopped. The women from Maine were charged with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine and heroin. Both of these charges are felonies in Massachusetts. However, the facts of this case tell me that the cases against these two have been unfairly and that both should be charged with no more than possession. This post explores that sentiment. Continue reading →
A local newspaper reports that three individuals, one from Lawrence, Massachusetts, the other two from Maine, have been charged with various Massachusetts drug crimes involving heroin. Now had the folks from Maine read my blog or any criminal defense publications they might not be in trouble right now. The facts of this case are suspiciously familiar. The scenario seems to be reported weekly in the local papers. Here is what the cops say happened. An officer sees a car with Maine. An Hispanic male goes up to the passenger and hands her an item. The passenger is confronted by the police. She denies having any drugs. The driver apparently went into a gas station. When he comes out he is confronted by the police. He confesses to buying ten grams of heroin. All three, the driver, his passenger and the purported dealer are charged with possession of heroin and trafficking heroin. Here are my thoughts on this case: Continue reading →
An article I recently read in the Newburyport News once again got me thinking about traffic stops and probable cause. The defendant in this case, Luis Peguero was allegedly driving with headphones on. He was stopped. Police dispatchers provided information that Peguero had used an alias and had a criminal record. Consequently, his car was searched. Cocaine was found in a hide. The police found enough drugs to charge Peguero with trafficking cocaine in excess of one hundred grams. This post examines probable cause in the context of motor vehicle stops under the circumstances of this case.
There are many areas in Massachusetts where concentrations of drug trafficking arrests are made. Some are in the inner cities. Some are in economically challenged suburbs. Others are on major highways that connect Massachusetts to neighboring states. This last category of cases gives me the most concern and often leads me to believe that my client’s constitutional rights have been violated. That is for one simple reason. The percentage of drug trafficking arrests made after stops on these roads involving out of state license plates is proportionally higher than those involving Massachusetts license plates. To me this is nothing less than profiling. Continue reading →
Experienced police officers believe they know exactly how to write reports that will survive constitutional challenges. They learn this skill at the police academy, through occupational trainings and from losing suppression hearings. Yet regardless of what they put in their reports they still have to be able to stand up to aggressive cross-examination not only at trial but during evidentiary hearings. When the facts they put in their report are transparently suspect an experienced criminal defense lawyer is still going to have a good chance at winning. This post looks at a recent Lawrence, Massachusetts heroin trafficking arrest and my perceptions about the existence of any probable cause to stop and search. Continue reading →
Arrests for serious crimes are likely to trigger requests for bail. This is true not just in Massachusetts but in every state. Bail orders are set in various situations. Bail orders depend on the severity of the crime charged and other things more fully discussed below in this post. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276 Section 58 sets out the procedure for most bail matters. Initial orders of bail that are set in court are matters that should be handled by an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If not handled properly there is a chance that you can be held in jail. This post looks at the time and manner when bail is usually addressed.
The Massachusetts joint venture laws are perhaps the most confusing for jurors to appreciate and understand. A joint venturer is someone who aids or assists in the commission of a crime. This is the person or people who help the principle do the actual act. Helping someone escape or acting as a lookout can also be acts that impart responsibility as a joint venturer. It is the obligation of the district attorney to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the joint venturer had the same intent as the principle; that he or she intended that the crime be committed. Mere knowledge that a crime is being committed or mere presence at the crime scene is not enough to satisfy the prosecution’s burden of establishing a joint venture. All of that is understandable but here is where the law becomes problematic. A jury can infer the mental state of the joint venturer based the circumstances of the case. So what does the district attorney do in cases where many people are caught and present at a crime scene? They charge them all with the crimes and let the jury make the determination as to each person’s intent. This is completely unfair, disingenuous and downright dangerous. The following recent Brockton cocaine trafficking arrest demonstrates my concerns.
This question is brought up in my office several times each month. Someone is arrested and charged with drug trafficking. They had very little or no drugs on them. Or, they were caught selling a small amount of a controlled substance. Small meaning substantially less than the threshold amount needed to prove trafficking. They get arrested and arraigned in court. They are shocked to find out that they have been charged with trafficking. How can they charge me with this? An article I read earlier today gives an example of this. Erik Owen, an Andover, Massachusetts resident was arrested on drug charges in Andover. As a result a location in a neighboring town was searched. There, the police found in excess of two hundred grams of heroin. This was certainly enough product to charge heroin trafficking. The cops also found a firearm and bullets. Owen was charged with trafficking heroin over two hundred grams.