When A Massachusetts District Attorney’s Office Puts Form Over Substance As A Matter Of Policy The Public Is Not Being Well Served

As a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer I am often perplexed by certain “office policies” that overlook justice for the sake of appeasing the public. Yesterday for instance I was in a Massachusetts district court on a case where my client was charged with Failing to Register as a Sex Offender. My client is twenty four years old. When he was sixteen years old an aunt made a complaint that four years earlier he had inappropriately touched her daughter, the defendant’s biological cousin. The touching, if true amounted to an Indecent Assault and Battery. The allegation was that the defendant grabbed his cousin’s buttocks. The victim’s mother and the defendant’s mother are sisters.

By “coincidence” these allegations came to light after the two sisters became embroiled in a lawsuit over a piece of property that the two inherited. The dispute became bitter. The sisters still do not speak with one another. Now stupidly the defendant pleaded guilty to the Indecent Assault and Battery charge as a juvenile. He was placed on probation for two years. At the time of his guilty plea he was made aware of the Sex Offender Registry consequences. This admonition was conveyed by the judge, not the defense lawyer. The lawyer never told him about this prior to the hearing on his change of plea. However, once this obligation was conveyed to him he immediately complied with the laws.

The Massachusetts Sex Offender Laws have stringent registration requirements. Correctional institutions have the obligation to report the convicted offender to the registry. Parole and probation departments have the same obligation. Sentences of less than ninety days for a conviction of a sex offense require the judge to advise the accused of his duty to register in accordance with the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry laws. Sex offenders who move into Massachusetts must register within two days. The registration must include the Sex Offender’s address, work address and the school he or she is attending. Sex Offenders who move around within Massachusetts must provide their new home, work or school addresses. Sex Offenders who want to move out of Massachusetts must notify the Registry. There is a special provision for work addresses as well; that being an offender must notify the board ten days prior to starting work in that establishment.

The client about whom I am speaking works as a chef. He has moved among jobs and homes about eleven times over the past several years. He has always complied with the registration requirements. He took a new job this past summer. He believed that he had once again registered in accordance with his obligations as he had on eleven prior occasions. He was wrong. He made a mistake. He forgot to do so. Now keep in mind that his residence remained the same. That notwithstanding, over the Labor Day Weekend he was stopped for a Motor Vehicle infraction. The officer learned that he had not registered and he was properly arrested. He was held until his arraignment on that Tuesday and he registered upon his release. I provided this information to the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case. As is her office policy, she called the Sexual Assault supervisor. The recommendation came back: guilty with two year probation. The supervisor never took the time to look at the facts of this case, rather, she held to the rigid policy of her office, refusing to even look at this client’s history of registering and the substance of the crime that occurred twelve years ago to which he pleaded guilty eight years ago. What is even more troubling is that this same district attorney’s office, second earlier, recommended pre-trial probation for a man accused of driving one hundred ten miles per hour on the highway.

The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman is committed to fighting injustices such as the one discussed above. Form over substance as a matter of office policy is a disingenuous way to prosecuted cases. Our job is to fight such practices and get the right results for our clients. Call us at 617-263-6800 or email us to discuss your case.