Massachusetts criminal defense Attorney Blog
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This past Friday morning police in Oak Bluffs police were called to a location on a report of a dead body. When they arrived they went to a bedroom where they observed the body of a fifty year old man. Based on the presence of Drug Paraphernalia including baggies and a syringe officer believed that the man may have died of a drug overdose. The deceased’s roommate, Mathew Hubert was at the scene. Police reported that Hubert would obtain five hundred bags of Heroin from a source in western Massachusetts and would sell them at the cape. Hubert was immediately arrested when officers found a Class B drug and some Heroin in Hubert’s room. The police then secured a Search Warrant. They executed the warrant at the home and found evidence sufficient to file a criminal complaint for Trafficking Heroin, a Class A substance.

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Massachusetts Heroin Trafficking Defense Attorney

Cape Cod Massachusetts Drug Defense Lawyer

Here is something that immediately crosses my mind when reading this article. Absent a statement from the suspect, Mr. Hubert, how do the police know that he is in fact the person who was trafficking drugs as opposed to his deceased roommate? The simple answer is that the police do not. Both the decedent and Hubert used heroin. The police arrived at the home after receiving a call about a dead body. They were not at that time investigating heroin trafficking. It appears that the only evidence that the police have relative to Hubert and drugs is his admission that he had used heroin a couple of hours earlier and that there were drugs in his room at the time of his arrest. The quantity of those drugs led authorities to charge him with possession, not trafficking. Presumably, the trafficking charges stem from items located during the execution of the Search Warrant. These items can be attributed to Hubert’s roommate as easily as they can to him. I am curious to see whether or not these charges can survive a challenge on the basis of their sufficiency.

To prove Heroin Trafficking in Massachusetts the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hubert 1) possessed Heroin, 2) that he did so with the intent to distribute the substance and 3) that the weight of the Heroin satisfied the threshold required for Trafficking. Here, there is no indication that Hubert was the person who intended to sell the material, nor did the substance found appear to reach the necessary weight to charge Trafficking Heroin. The evidence against Hubert is equally applicable to the roommate under these circumstances. Both use heroin. With heroin use often comes heroin sales so that the user can support his habit. The informant’s information will not likely be admissible at trial unless that person can provide information corroborating the theory that what the police found belonged to Hubert and was to be sold. I can see many scenarios where this case does not get prosecuted for anything more than simple Possession of Heroin.

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According to a recent report, Alexander Bradley, one of Aaron Hernandez’s friends has testified before a Bristol County grand jury. Bradley is the “friend” whom Hernandez allegedly shot in the face in Florida this past February. Bradley is also the friend who was driving drunk with Hernandez in the car this past January. There are no criminal charges pending against Hernandez stemming from the Florida shooting.

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Boston, Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer, Fifth Amendment Issues

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer, Grand Jury Proceedings

This article made me thing about the grand jury process in Massachusetts and how it works. As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I frequently challenge the integrity of the grand jury process hoping to get cases dismissed. Often however I ignore the mechanics of these proceedings, something worthy of discussion. For the most part, people are summonsed at random each month to serve on a grand jury. Out of the total called to court twenty-three people sit for a period of months. The number of months during which they serve varies from county to county. The grand jury does not meet every day. The impaneled jurors are given an oath. They then elect someone to act as the foreperson of the grand jury. The foreperson is empowered to administer oaths to the witnesses who are to testify before the grand jury. In Massachusetts witnesses who appear before a grand jury can have an attorney present with them.

Initially at least the grand jury process is done in secret. The grand jurors hear evidence presented by the district attorney through witnesses. The evidence must satisfy the elements of the crime and establish the identify of the accused. The standard of proof necessary to return an indictment is “probable cause”, the lowest standard of proof in the American legal system for criminal matters. The indictment once returned may be held until the arrest of the defendant. To secure an indictment there must be the agreement of at least twelve of the grand jurors. The grand jury can also “no bill” a case. This means that it has not secured the necessary twelve votes to indict. Anyone held in custody while waiting for a grand jury to hear the case will be released immediately upon the grand jury issuing a “no bill”. The deliberation process is done privately. The district attorney or prosecutor cannot be present while the grand jury votes.

There are ways to challenge indictments. One is to show that the district attorney failed to present enough evidence to show that a crime was committed and that the crime was committed by the defendant. Challenges like this are brought by motion to dismiss or what is known in Massachusetts as a McCarthy motion. Another way to try to get a case dismissed involves a challenge to the integrity of the grand jury process. Here, if the defense can establish that the grand jurors were misled by a lying prosecutor, police officer or other witness a judge might be persuaded to dismiss the case. Cases that are dismissed due to grand jury proceeding inadequacies are often re-indicted. This gives the district attorney another opportunity to charge the defendant with this crime. To avoid this, an experienced criminal lawyer might not move to dismiss prior to trial but leave this issue open to ensure success on appeal if necessary.

The grand jury process in Massachusetts is fertile ground for litigation that might result in success for the accused. This makes your choice of a criminal defense lawyer critical.

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Kaitlyn Hunt is an eighteen year old high school student who had a consensual relationship with a fifteen year old basketball teammate. The younger girls’ parents found out about the relationship and pressed criminal charges. Now, Hunt faces Felony Sex Crime Charges. A plea deal that prosecutors offered for Hunt would have placed her on house arrest for two years. Of course, this felony conviction would result in Hunt having to register as a Sex Offender. The article states that Hunt would have plead guilty to misdemeanor sex crimes but not to the felonies. Hunt’s lawyer correctly pointed out that being a convicted felon would adversely impact her ability to enter college and to prevent her from holding certain professional positions. Unlike Massachusetts where the age of consent is sixteen the age of consent in Florida is seventeen.

The Hunt case has sparked some interesting debate. A state senator, Thad Altman, known for having conservative views believes that this case is “tragic” and that the laws should be changed. He is quoted as saying “You would like to think this wouldn’t happen in this country, two teenagers in a moment of passion do something consensual and suddenly one is facing fifteen years in prison”. Altman intends to sponsor legislation that would address the Florida age limit issue. Altman is not alone. Over three hundred people have petitioned the Florida legislature to abort this prosecution.

So you ask “does this happen in Massachusetts”. The simple answer is yes. It does. Massachusetts law is a bit more forgiving in one respect. The age of consent is sixteen, one year younger than it is in Florida. I have defended charges involving consensual sexual relationships between fifteen year olds and seventeen year olds. Perhaps most troubling is the nomenclature of the crime in Massachusetts. It is called Rape of a Child. That is what your criminal record will reflect if you are convicted of having consensual sex with your underage partner. Your board of probation printout will not distinguish between a consensual relationship or a forcible rape. It will simply read that you were convicted of Rape of a Child in Massachusetts. You will most likely have to register as a level two or three sex offender, something that will stay with you for years and possibly for life. Schools will not accept you. Your employment opportunities will be limited. Your neighbors will probably learn that you have been convicted of a sex crime. You will not be able to coach your kids youth sports teams. Your life will be ruined.

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Moises Matos of Lawrence, Massachusetts is being held without bail in the Essex County Jail following his arraignment in Newburyport District Court for several Massachusetts Violent Crimes. Authorities allege that this past Sunday Matos and the victim were passengers in a car being driven by Matos forty five year old brother Henry. At some point the defendant, who was seated in the front seat, started to pull the woman’s hair. The woman was seated in the rear of the vehicle. Matos then punched the woman. He got into the back of the car and while it was moving threw her out onto the highway. The woman was treated at the scene and then taken to a Boston hospital by helicopter. She sustained two broken arms, a head injury and damage to her legs. At the hospital the victim provided detailed information to the police enabling them to arrest Matos who they located in Lawrence. Matos’ brother had been charged with OUI and Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle. Moises Matos is facing charges of Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon, Aggravated Assault and Battery and Assault With the Intent to Murder. The case is pending in the Newburyport but will be prosecuted in the Essex County Superior Court.

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Newburyport, Massachusetts Violent Crimes Defense Law Firm

Aggravated Assault and Battery Defense Attorney in Massachusetts, Lawrence, Newburyport, Essex County

One of the charges that baffles me in the context of this case is the Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon. The article states that the dangerous weapon used in the commission of the crime is the pavement. The crime of Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon is a felony. The applicable law is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 15A. There is a ten year maximum sentence associated with a conviction for this offense if the case is charged in the superior court.

Dangerous weapons in Massachusetts are classified into two categories. A “dangerous weapon per se” is something designed to inflict great bodily harm or death. Guns and knives fall into this category. They are designed for assault purposes. Other instrumentalities like razors, tools, pocket-knives are not per se dangerous weapons. However, these items can be viewed as dangerous weapons if used in a dangerous manner. Other examples of non per se dangerous weapons are broomsticks, phone cords, riding crops, walking sticks and cars. I have never heard of pavement in this context being considered a dangerous weapon. We recently succeeded in getting a charge of Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon dismissed where the victim after being struck by the defendant fell into a refrigerator. The refrigerator was deemed the dangerous weapon by the district attorney. The judge threw this out after we convinced him that something that someone falls into during the course of an Assault and Battery cannot be considered a dangerous weapon if not used in that manner. Similarly, I believe that this charge should fail as to Mr. Matos.

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Today’s Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports that evidence in the case against Lori Barron, defendant in the Lawrence, Massachusetts day spa Sex Trafficking Scandal is still being processed. In the meantime countless local businessmen and male professionals fears are mounting.

It was about one week ago that news of Barron’s arrest and a potential “client list” broke. Barron, a fifty-year old Salem woman supposedly recorded her employees engaging in unlawful sexual acts and threatened them with exposure if they quit or failed to accede to her demands. Authorities estimate that Barron had hundreds of customers some of whom she solicited through backpage.com and other internet advertising websites. Barron, who has a previous criminal record for Prostitution has been charged with Prostitution, Photographing Unsuspecting Persons in the Nude, Human Sex Trafficking, violating the Massachusetts Wiretap Statute, Extortion and Intimidation of a Witness. She posted thirty thousand dollars cash bail in the Lawrence District Court. The police learned of her operation when a former employee complained that Barron Assaulted her when she refused to give in to a client’s peculiar sexual demands.

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Lawrence, Massachusetts Sex Trafficking Defense Law Firm

Lawyers Who Defend Sex Crimes in Essex County Massachusetts

So here is what clients now fear. The supposed “client list” is rumored to contain the names of lawyers, doctors, teachers, law enforcement officials, court employees firefighters, politicians and local professionals and businessmen. It is suggested that proof of that list exists through cell phone records and a computer hard drive, both of which are being examined through forensic experts. The most legitimate concern involves the publication of the names of the persons on the list. Try explaining this one to your wife, kids, friends and employer. Our office has received countless calls in the past week from potential clients and existing clients concerned about the dissemination of the list and their possible criminal exposure. I can tell you as a practical matter that the former is much more ominous than the latter. As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I am pretty confident that if criminal charges against clients issue the cases will be difficult to prove unless of course there is video evidence of unlawful acts or the person talks to the police. Absent video evidence and a confession the cases will be virtually non-provable.

This is not to say that the people on the “client list” will not be prosecuted. The standard for issuing criminal complaints is far lower than the standard for proving the crime alleged. Even if law enforcement knows that the case cannot be proved they might still issue complaints or publish the list. Why would they do this? It is usually done to serve as a deterrent. It sends a message to people who engage in this behavior or are inclined to do so. The message is simple. If you are going to frequent prostitution establishments be prepared for public exposure and humiliation even if the district attorney’s office cannot successfully prosecute you.

In the meantime clients have asked me what they can do right now. The simple answer is nothing. Why put your name out there? You might not be on the list. Can you see the client list? No. You can’t. Is there anything you can do to prevent the issuance of criminal charges? Yes. Hire a Massachusetts Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer. Your lawyer will make sure that you avoid incriminating yourself so that if you are a suspect or if you are charged you will not be in a position where your words help to convict you.

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Over two weeks ago police in Norwood, Massachusetts executed a Search Warrant at an apartment complex. This followed an investigation into alleged Drug Dealing activities by Henry Samuels, a twenty-four year old Norwood resident. In August of 2012 Samuels was arrested for selling marijuana to minors. At that time he was charged with Distribution of Marijuana, a Second and Subsequent Offense. Authorities claim that Samuels was selling marijuana from his apartment and that the landlord was alerted to his activities. At the time it was suggested to the landlord that he evict Samuels from the property. Apparently he did not. Since that time, Samuels remained under investigation by local police for drug related matters. Then, on June 5, 2013, armed with what they believed was probable cause, the police obtained a Search Warrant. During the execution of the search they found several bags of marijuana with an estimated street value of five thousand dollars. Samuels was not home at the time but his mother, Lashauna Pettway was. She was arrested and charged with Possession With Intent to Distribute Marijuana and Possession of Marijuana. Samuels faces the same criminal charges. The landlord, who is not named in the article, is being charged with misdemeanor charges of permitting someone “to remain a common nuisance by the sale of controlled substances” in his building. The cases are being prosecuted in the Dedham District Court.

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Norfolk County Marijuana Distribution Defense Law Firm

As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I am most intrigued by the charge against the landlord. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 139 Section 20 makes it a crime for a landlord to permit tenants to engage in gambling, prosecution, the illegal sale of alcohol, the sale of drugs on their property. The statute requires the landlord, after proper notice, to take appropriate steps to evict the tenant. A failure to do so can result in a criminal prosecution and a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of one thousand dollars. The statute is rarely implemented, which, from a law enforcement perspective makes no sense. There are only three criminal cases in Massachusetts addressing this issue, and none of them firmly address the crime.

Here is what the law requires relative to this case. Back in August, once the landlord learned that Samuels had been arrested for selling drugs, he was required to commence eviction proceedings. In other words, the law imposes on him an affirmative duty to spend money on lawyer and go to court to remove someone who might not have been convicted and enjoys the presumption of innocence. No wonder this law is rarely employed. It might not survive a challenge to its constitutionality. Laws like this one if properly attacked can result in a dismissal of the criminal charges.

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Yesterday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its opinion in the case of Commonwealth v. Chambers. Chambers was tried in the Suffolk Superior Court for the death of Edward Quiles. The district attorney proved that in the winter of 2008 Chambers lived with the victim and another (Ceurvels) in an apartment in Boston. All three were drug users abusing Cocaine and Heroin. Ceurvels witnessed the incident and testified at trial to the following: The night before the killing Chambers and Quiles were injecting Heroin. They fell asleep around 4:00 a.m. the next day. They woke up to Quiles yelling about a missing gram of heroin. They went back to sleep again. Later that afternoon Quiles woke the other two again complaining about some missing heroin. Chamber and Quiles looked around the apartment for the drugs. Ceurvels left for a while. Ten minutes later Ceurvels returned to find Chambers and Quiles in “an all-out brawl”. Ceurvels then saw blood on the floor and heard Quiles yell to Chambers that Chambers had stabbed him. Ceurvels left the apartment and through another notified the police. He never saw a weapon. The police entered the home and found Quiles dead. The medical examiner testified that Quiles died from a stab wound to the neck.

Chambers was arrested. At the police station he stated that Quiles was high on drugs and that he had accused Chambers of stealing his drugs. He stated that Quiles produced the knife, punched him in the head and called one of his friends to come over and kill Chambers. Chambers also said that Quiles had threatened to stab him and would not let him leave the apartment.

Before the trial started the defense requested and obtained evidence of specific acts of violence committed by Quiles. The district attorney tried to exclude this material at trial. The judge agreed to permit Chambers to admit this evidence, specifically that in 2006 Quiles and others Assaulted and Robbed another individual. The collateral evidence is known as “Adjutant evidence”. Relying on this ruling the defense attorney mentioned this in his opening statement. During the trial, the judge changed her mind on the admissibility of the Adjutant evidence. In doing so she ruled that since the identity of the first aggressor was not an issue at trial Adjutant did not apply. The Supreme Judicial Court held this to be error. It concluded that Adjutant applies “where there is a dispute at trial as to who threatened or struck the first blow or as to who initiated the threat or use of deadly force”. The improper restriction on the use of the Adjutant evidence coupled with the judge’s failure to remedy defense counsel’s reference to this in his opening statement warranted a reversal of Chambers’ conviction.

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Today the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its opinion in Commonwealth v. Parent, SJC-11181. After a jury trial Parent was convicted of Indecent Assault and Battery, Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. In reversing convictions for a the Massachusetts Sex Crime and other the other charges the Court in Parent found the following facts:

The defendant’s fifteen year old daughter invited a fourteen year old girlfriend to spend the night at her home. The daughter asked the defendant if she and her friend could have an alcoholic drink. The defendant gave them each a bottle of alcoholic lemonade. Once they finished their drink Parent went to a local store to buy two six packs of the same drink. The girls were with him. They went home. The girls each had a few more drinks. The girls fell asleep on a sofa bed while watching television. The victim claims to have woken up with the defendant lying down between her and the daughter on the bed. The victim testified that the defendant had his hand in her pants, rubbing her genitalia over her underwear. She stopped him, the defendant left and the fourteen year old friend fell back to sleep. The next day Parent’s fiancé took the girls to the movies. The victim ran into a friend and disclosed what had happened the night before. The defendant’s daughter agreed that he had provided them with alcohol and that he was becoming intoxicated as the night progressed. She never saw or heard him get into the bed with them.

The defense contended that the victim was lying. In support of this defense counsel argued that the friend changed her story over time. This was corroborated by a detective’s report generated four days after the incident. In total defense recognized four significant inconsistencies between the trial testimony and what was related to the detective. On cross-examination the victim denied making the inconsistent statements to the detective. Accordingly, defense counsel tried elicit the inconsistencies from the detective. The judge would not permit it. The Supreme Judicial Court found this to be an improper limitation of Parent’s right to impeach the victim. The Court further found this to be prejudicial and reversed the conviction for Indecent Assault and Battery.

The Supreme Judicial Court addressed other issues as well. The trial judge improperly permitted the district attorney to elicit from the detective evidence that the complaining witness told him that Parent committed a sexual assault on her. The Court found this to be violative of the first complaint doctrine. In fact its only purpose was to pile on evidence that suggested that the victim was telling the truth and that the act did in fact occur. The Court restated its position that “[t]he testimony of multiple complaint witnesses likely serves no additional corroborative purpose, and may unfairly enhance a complainant’s credibility as well as prejudice the defendant by repeating for the jury the often horrific details of an alleged crime.” Nor was the friend’s statement to the detective admissible for the purpose of rehabilitating her credibility.

The count charging the defendant with delivering alcohol to his own daughter was also reversed. The applicable law, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 138 Section 34 prohibits providing alcohol to anyone under the age of twenty one. Specifically, you cannot sell or deliver alcohol to a person under age, you cannot buy a drink for someone under age in a bar or restaurant and you cannot give an underage person alcohol. There is an exception provided by the statute. You can give it to your child or grandchild. In reversing this portion of the conviction the Supreme Judicial Court discussed confusing aspects of the statute pertaining to the words “furnish”, “procure”, “sell” and “deliver”. The Court concluded that what Parent was convicted for did not violate the statute.

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Earlier today Methuen, Massachusetts police responded to a report of a fight occurring just outside of a Methuen fast food restaurant on Route 110. In total, five people were arrested. The incident occurred just after midnight when one of the accused allegedly insulted a female. Words were exchanged between the two groups, one consisting of five individuals the other having three. One of the individuals in the larger group used a metal pipe beat and stab the three victims. One of the injured parties sustained injuries to his head and was taken to the hospital where he remains in serious condition. Four or the individuals arrested face charges of Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon. The other has been charged with Assault With Intent to Murder as well as Assault and Battery by Means of a Dangerous Weapon. The charges are now pending in the Lawrence District Court. Depending on their criminal records and the severity of the injuries this case may be prosecuted in the Essex County Superior Court in Salem.

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Methuen, Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer Defending Violent Crimes, Assault Cases, Stabbing Cases

This article mentions the suspects being detained not far from the crime scene for the purpose of witness identification. This issue comes up regularly in Massachusetts Criminal Cases. Prosecutors need victims to make identifications of their assailants. Yet there are constitutional restrictions on the manner in which these identification procedures can be implemented. If the procedure is not followed correctly the accused’s Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer can bring a Motion to Suppress the Identification Procedure. If successful, the fact that an identification of the defendant was made might not be admissible at trial. Absent an independent source for the identification of the defendant the case might be dismissed.

There are many types of identification procedures used by law enforcement in Massachusetts and throughout the country. There are photo arrays, line-ups, show-ups and more. The procedure used here is commonly known as a “show up” identification procedure. This usually takes place at or near the crime scene. Potential suspects will be detained for a period of time, usually enough time to get the victim or witness over to view the individual. The victim or witness is typically concealed in a police cruiser and taken to the scene to see if he or she can identify the person being detained as having been involved in the crime. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court views this procedure as “inherently suggestive”. These procedures present the greatest risk of mistaken identification. However, trial judges often deny motions to suppress these procedures and rarely is that decision overturned. Judges are to look to the totality of the circumstances in determining whether or not the identification procedure was unnecessarily suggestive so as to warrant suppression. It is the job of the defense attorney to present evidence showing the suggestive nature of the process. This can be done directly, through cross-examination or both. The district attorney is accountable to show that good reason for the procedure existed. The judge will look at factors such as the need for an efficient police investigation immediately following the crime and the usefulness of a quick confirmation of the police investigatory information.

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Just two nights ago Michael Gitschier of Amesbury, Massachusetts was arrested and charged with numerous Massachusetts Drug Crimes. A Newburyport, Massachusetts newspaper reports that an Amesbury Police Officer noticed a very bright light shining in a downtown apartment. The officer radioed for assistance. A second officer arrived and the two approached the home to inquire. When they did they were met with a strong odor of Marijuana. One of the cops then looked into a window where he claims to have seen between twenty and twenty five pot plants. The officer reported that seeing grow lights and an irrigation system set up as well. With this information the police applied for and were granted a Search Warrant. The warrant was served, the search was executed and Gitschier was arrested. The forty two year old Gitschier was charged with Possession With Intent to Distribute Marijuana, a Class D Substance, Possession of Marijuana as a Second and Subsequent Offense and Malicious Destruction to Property. The latter charges stems from allegations that the defendant tapped into a neighbor’s utilities to facilitate the growth of the plants and arguable to avoid detection for excessive utility bills. Gitschier was charged in the Newburyport District Court where during his arraignment it was alleged that he admitted to committing the crimes charged. The owner of the apartment posted Gitschier’s bail which was set at two thousand five hundred dollars. The article states that the officer making the discovery viewed the bright light in the apartment as out of place and warranting further investigation.

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Lawyers Who Defend Marijuana Felony and Misdemeanor Cases in Newburyport, Massachusetts

As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer I am interested in seeing the affidavit used to obtain the Search Warrant. As most readers know, if that document fails to articulate sufficient probable cause for the issuance of the Search Warrant the search will fail, the drugs will be suppressed and Gitschier’s case will likely be dismissed. One of the questions I have is exactly what did the officer’s do when they approached the home? Where were they when they saw the excessively bright lighting? From where did they approach the defendant’s home? What was the defendant’s expectation of privacy relative to the place from where the officer peered into the window to make his observation? Here is something else. Do you really think that someone who put together an elaborate Marijuana Cultivation operation would leave a portion of his window uncovered? Are there any surveillance cameras in the area that can show exactly what the police officers did in this case? Some pretrial investigation work is likely to reveal the answers to these questions. The results of this work will have an important impact on the ultimate outcome of this case.

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