Not everyone who gets charged with a crime in Massachusetts was present at the time the crime was committed. There can be any number of reasons why this happens. Sometimes witnesses or the police are given the wrong name at the time the case is reported. This can be deliberate or simply a mistake. Other times people are charged because they own some property that is connected to the crime. For instance, owners or lessees of property can be charged with drug trafficking if their home was searched and drugs were found…even if they were not home at the time of the search. Similarly, the owner of a car might be charged with a crime in which the car was involved such as leaving the scene, hit and run or operating recklessly or to endanger…even if no one saw the car owner actually driving the vehicle. Under these circumstances and others I have had clients come into my office and ask “how can I be charged with a crime if I was somewhere else at the time”. This post offers some thoughts on this issue and how to avoid getting convicted.
In previous blog posts and social media outlets I have written about the need to hire a criminal defense lawyer before charges are filed. Obviously not everybody reads my posts because I am retained on hundreds of criminal cases that might never have been filed otherwise. Once you think you might be charged with a crime it is imperative to contact an attorney. Here are some examples of cases that would never have been prosecuted had the defendant hired a lawyer prior to charges being filed.
I cannot even begin to count the number of times a week people call my office and ask what they should do because they think the cops are looking for them. The answer depends on what happened and why the client thinks he or she is wanted. For instance, yesterday someone called me concerned because police outside of an infamous massage parlor spotted his car and left a message for him to call them. Last week another man called me after the police went to his house and talked to his wife about a hit and run accident involving his car. Today, someone called my because he heard that there might be a warrant for his arrest out of a particular town and he wanted to know what to do. This post discusses some thoughts I have what to do in Massachusetts if you think the police are looking for you. Continue reading →
Prosecutors in the Wrentham District Court claim that Moses Acloque dragged a women who worked at a Route 1 motel for three miles underneath his vehicle causing her death. According to a report in the Patch Acloque was at a party in a motel room watching Monday Night Football. The prosecution claims that Acloque had not paid for the room nor was he permitted to be in the room. His defense lawyer stated that he was a visitor in the room. Apparently, motel staff members demanded payment from Acloque. The defense has alleged that Acloque was then assaulted. His injuries warranted hospital treatment. The prosecution contends that Acloque ran over the victim while trying to leave the property without providing payment for the room.
The Patch article further suggests that at least one person, not present at the motel saw the body being dragged by Acloque’s vehicle. That person alerted the state police who in turn located Acloque, his truck and the victim’s body. An arrest was immediately made.
Acloque has been charged with leaving the scene of an accident, motor vehicle homicide and other motor vehicle crimes. A modest bail was set and at least for now the case will be prosecuted in the district court.
The facts reported in this article leave much to the imagination relative to potential defenses to these charges. Key to the case will likely be what the witness who alerted the state police actually saw. The article suggests that he saw Acloque’s vehicle hit the victim. If that is true then his observations tend to undermine the prosecutor’s representations that the victim was struck by Acloque while blocking his truck in an effort to secure payment for the room. There is also the suggestion that the accused was leaving the motel to escape from an assault. This conduct in some cases provides a viable affirmative defense to criminal accusations.
Here is something else to think about. Acloque’s defense lawyer stated that he had no idea that someone was being dragged by the car. This might very well be true depending on where the body was in relation to the car. For instance, if the somehow the victim or her clothing got stuck on a portion of the rear of the truck while she was running after the vehicle this suggestion becomes plausible. On the other hand, if the truck struck her from the front and she was dragged underneath then Acloque might have some bigger problems. One thing is for sure. Acloque hired an excellent Massachusetts criminal lawyer with years of experience. Getting the judge to set reasonable bail was in and of itself an initial victory for Acloque.
Kathleen Allen, a twenty three year old Middleboro, Massachusetts woman was held on one hundred thousand dollars bail after her arraignment in the Wareham District Court. It is alleged that Allen was high on Heroin and Operating Under the Influence when her pickup truck slammed into a sedan killing the driver of the smaller car, a local college freshman. The most serious charge Allen faces is Motor Vehicle Homicide. At the time of the incident Allen had three open criminal cases.
According to reports, police officers responded to the crash scene where they observed two vehicles overturned. The victim died at the accident scene. Allen was brought to the hospital and treated for some minor injuries. Her passenger was med-flighted to a Boston hospital with serious injuries. Reports state that while driving Allen dropped a cigarette. When she went to pick it up she lost control of the wheel. Her passenger tried to steer the vehicle into the correct lane and as the two struggled for control of the wheel the pickup truck hit the victim’s car. Allen supposedly told the police that not long before the accident she injected herself with Heroin. She also admitted to drinking heavily. The case is currently being prosecuted in the Wareham District Court.
Lawyers Who Defend Motor Vehicle Homicide Cases in Plymouth County
Motor Vehicle Homicide in Massachusetts is a felony proscribed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90 Section 24G. The law states that anyone operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs who causes death to another can be punished by up to fifteen years in state prison. A conviction for this offense mandates a one year jail sentence. There is also a fifteen year loss of license for anyone convicted of this offense. Interestingly enough, the district attorney could have charged Allen with manslaughter based on the same conduct. A conviction for manslaughter would carry a possible twenty year state prison sentence. Massachusetts courts have stated that the Motor Vehicle Homicide statute was designed to find a middle ground between manslaughter and Operating to Endanger.
As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I can see where Allen’s case might be difficult to defend successfully. There are several hurdles she has to overcome, which in the circumstances of this case will be tough to jump. Allen will have to show that the accident was not her fault. The district attorney will likely have an accident reconstructionist engaged. If they determine Allen was at fault then she will have to overcome the factor of impairment. This involves first challenging the admissibility of her admissions to the police, then trying to exclude as evidence the breathalyzer or blood test. Allen’s passenger’s recollection of the events might help with her defense depending on the testimony that person can provide and his or her credibility. Allen has a tough fight ahead of her.
About two months ago a police officers were looking for a car reported stolen. Shortly thereafter officers located a vehicle fitting the description of the Stolen Car. The police followed the car and a chase ensued. The stolen vehicle supposedly reached speeds of one hundred ten miles per hour. The chase was called off but the vehicle continued at a high rate of speed and ultimately crashed. The driver of the car, a woman somehow managed to escape the wreckage and fled to a nearby building. There she tried to conceal her identity by dressing up as a janitor. The woman was apprehended. While being transported she admitted to driving the car but claimed that over the previous four day period she was involuntarily injected with Heroin and given Methamphetamine. She was then told to get into the stolen car, to drive and not to stop. The woman was charged with Larceny of a Motor Vehicle, Operating to Endanger and other Motor Vehicle Offenses. Ironically, she was not charged with any Drug Crimes; i.e. Possession of Heroin or Possession of Methamphetamine.
Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crimes Defense Law Firm
Larceny of a Motor Vehicle Defense Lawyer, Massachusetts
Involuntary Intoxication is a defense to criminal accusations in Massachusetts. There is a Massachusetts on point that supports the woman’s contention in this case; Commonwealth v. Darch. That case states that if someone “is compelled to ingest intoxicants unwillingly” he or she can defend the allegations on the theory of involuntary intoxication. In Massachusetts, to overcome this defense the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s intoxication was voluntary. This defense can be successful if the defendant gets a blood test or someone can corroborate the position that someone drug the accused. As a practical matter, for this defense to work the defendant is going to need a lot more than a statement such as the one made by the defendant in this case. Here is what I see as a problem with the defense in this case. The chase starts once the police start following the car thereby suggesting that the defendant knew the car to be stolen. After the car crashed the defendant took deliberate actions to avoid detection. She fled to a nearby building. She used a disguise to avert detection. Then, she gave a detailed description of how she was drugged; something that a drugged out person would be unable to do. Finally, there was no suggestion other than her words that drugs were involved in this activity.
The Brockton Enterprise reports that Mary Lukasik, a Massachusetts woman will be charged following an accident that resulted in a death just two days ago. The thirty four year old Lukasik was driving a car that struck a fifty one year old woman. The accident occurred around 7:00 in the morning. Lukasik will be charged with Motor Vehicle Homicide by way of Negligent Operation. The case will be prosecuted at least initially in the Hingham District Court.
Hingham, Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crimes Defense Lawyer
In the opinion of this Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer perhaps the most unjust crime that is prosecuted in Massachusetts is Motor Vehicle Homicide by way of negligent operation. This Massachusetts law states that ordinary negligence, the same negligence that applies to tort cases can suffice to establish guilt of the accused. The law requires the district attorney to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused operated a motor vehicle, that she did so in a public way and that she did so in a negligent manner such that the lives and safety of the public might be endangered. A finding of “ordinary negligence” establishes a violation of the statute. The penalty for a conviction under this statute is rather severe given the absence of a need to prove criminal intent. There is a minimum thirty day sentence and up to two and one half years under the misdemeanor version of this law and significantly more if the case is prosecuted as a felony. There is also a fifteen year loss of license for anyone convicted of this crime. While the article is silent as to whether this case will be charged as a misdemeanor or felony it appears that a misdemeanor complaint has issued.
To successfully defend a case like this it is necessary to show an absence of negligence on the part of the accused. Did the victim dart out in front of the car? Was there some sort of obstruction in the road or nearby area impacting the driver’s ability to see the pedestrian? Was the accused acting appropriately and this simply an unfortunate accident? These are some of the questions that Ms. Lukasik’s lawyer will investigate in preparing for her defense. Being accused of a crime does not mean that a person is guilty of having committed that crime. Unfortunately, when a death is involved prosecutors tend to try to hold someone accountable for the act. Their approach is often “let a judge or jury determine what happened and assign accountability”. Good, experienced defense lawyers can convince a judge or a jury that there was no crime committed and perhaps all that occurred was an unfortunate accident.
Just after 5:30 p.m. yesterday, Methuen, Massachusetts resident John Sullivan was driving on Pelham Street when he heard a noise. He thought he hit a deer. Not too long thereafter Sullivan noticed damage appearing to be more extensive than he first thought. He became concerned that he might have hit a person so in less than one half hour he went to the Methuen Police Station where he learned that he had in fact struck a seventy-year old woman who was in critical condition. The woman was wearing dark clothing. Several witnesses saw her being thrown into the air. Another witness though that a trash bag was being thrown out of the window of a car in front of her. There is no indication that anyone was able to identify Sullivan or his car as being involved in the accident. Sullivan has been released on personal recognizance notwithstanding a request from the assistant district attorney for a ten thousand dollar bail. Charges of Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Personal Injury are pending in the Lawrence District Court.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident Lawyer in Massachusetts
Not every accident resulting in an injury constitutes a crime. That is the message that Sullivan’s Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer needs to convey to the district attorney’s office or, if necessary to a jury. Keep in mind a few things. The woman who was hit by Sullivan’s car was wearing dark clothing. According to the newspaper report the victim’s late husband was hit by a car in that area about six years ago. So what does that tell you? This is a dangerous intersection. Or, the lighting in this area is poor. What did Sullivan do wrong? Nothing according to the Lawrence Eagle Tribune article. None of the witnesses’ statements referenced any wrongdoing on his part. There is no reference to excessive speed or to a red light violation. There is no indication that he was inattentive. As a matter of fact, Sullivan did the right thing. When he became concerned that he might not have hit a deer he immediately went to the police station. When he learned that someone had been hit he voluntarily gave a statement. The timing of his actions are critical. Less than one half hour after the accident he reports to the police station. This immediately eliminates any suggestion that he was operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. His lawyer made clear that he has not texting capabilities so we can rule that out as well.
Carmen Beltre of Lawrence, Massachusetts disappeared in mid January following the release of information that she was one of about fifty people being charged in a Federal Identity Fraud Scheme. It is alleged that Beltre and others accessed and distributed false documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards. Last summer Beltre was arrested on several Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Crimes including Operating with a Suspended License, Operating Uninsured and Attaching Plates. During the booking process Beltre was found in possession of various Social Security numbers, immigration papers and a “suspicious” list of names. Beltre claimed that she worked for the government and that the information found in her possession was job related. Authorities turned this information over to the Essex County District Attorney for investigation and charges were filed. Beltre was held at the Wilmington, Massachusetts Police Department awaiting arraignment in the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
While the article is silent as to what crime Beltre is charged with I would imagine that she is accused of violating 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(7) which states that it is a crime for anyone to knowingly transfer, possess or use someone else’s identification with the intent to commit an act that constitutes a violation of Federal or State law. The punishment for a conviction varies depending on the circumstances in which the fraud was committed. For instance, if the identity fraud implicated drug trafficking activities then the statute authorizes a twenty year prison sentence. If it involves terrorism then a thirty year sentence can be imposed. In Beltre’s case the accusation is unclear however if drugs are not involved I would imagine that the maximum sentence is fifteen years. The statute in this situation might permit a sentence of probation making it necessary that Beltre’s Massachusetts Federal Criminal Lawyer be experienced in these matters. Beltre’s sentence in large part will depend on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Factors that will come into play are her age, criminal record, involvement in the Identity Fraud Scheme, level of obstruction with the investigation, ultimate cooperation and extent of her acceptance of responsibility. Or, perhaps this is the type of case that will be tried before a jury.
One more thing came to mind when I first read this article. As is the case here, a tremendous number of Massachusetts Criminal Cases start with Motor Vehicle Stops. Beltre’s arrest for the Motor Vehicle Offenses permitted the officers to search her incident to her arrest. Under Massachusetts and Federal law they were also permitted to conduct a limited search of her car. Suppressing these searches would be extremely unlikely given the circumstances addressed in this article. I am always amazed at just how often people involved in major crimes commit minor motor vehicle infractions that precipitate Searches and Seizures. This stupidity at times makes the job of law enforcement officials ridiculously easy.
Angel Anaya of Fall River, Massachusetts and Jose Rivera of Lawrence, Massachusetts were arrested early Tuesday night following a brief encounter with the police. According to today’s Lawrence Eagle Tribune, an auto theft strike force was working in Lawrence that day. They received a stolen car report for a Toyota. Shortly thereafter, a patrol officer spotted the car in a restaurant parking lot. This took place around 7:30 in the evening. The driver later identified as Anaya hit the officer and fled in the car. A chase ensued. Anaya hit another car as well as a police cruiser and along with his passenger, Rivera, they fled the scene on foot. Rivera was charged with Receiving a Stolen Motor Vehicle, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and Resisting Arrest. Anaya was charged with Assault With a Dangerous Weapon, Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon and Failing to Stop for a Police Officer. The cases are being prosecuted in the Lawrence District Court however these matters could be indicted and prosecuted in the Essex County Superior Court in Salem.
Receiving Stolen Motor Vehicle in Massachusetts is a felony pursuant to M.G.L. c. 266 Section 28. The law states that anyone in possession of a stolen car, knowing the same to be stolen is guilty of that offense. The statute permits a sentence of up to fifteen years in state prison or two and one half years on the house of correction. A judge cannot continue a case like this without a finding. Anyone who gets convicted of a second or subsequent offense must serve a minimum mandatory one year jail sentence. Prosecutions for this crime cannot survive attack if it is determined that the district attorney did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had possession of the car, knew that the car was stolen and that he intended to deprive the owner of the car permanently.
In this regard, the district attorney in this case might have trouble proving this crime against Rivera. There is no indication that Rivera knew that the car was stolen. Things that might suggest otherwise are a popped ignition, simultaneous engagement in other illicit activity, particularly Theft Crimes, visible signs of ownership by another or the presence of other stolen motor vehicles. None of this appears present in this case. As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I have had many cases where the charge of Receiving Stolen Motor Vehicle has been dismissed due to an absence of evidence to attribute knowledge to my client. These cases are often difficult for the district attorney to prove, particularly as to passengers. Nor for that matter should evidence of Rivera’s flight be compelling. Anaya’s actions might well have surprised and scared him. Being present in a car responsible for striking a police officer, getting into a chase and an accident could understandably give people reason to flee. While that action was probably not the best course of action for Rivera it is not a determinant of guilt.