Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

Like everyone else in society, Cape Cod criminal defense attorneys and their clients have had to approach a lot of things differently during the last year due to the pandemic. As criminal cases, both misdemeanors and felonies, have made their way through the criminal justice system, many questions have arisen.

What happens when public safety measures collide with rights secured by the U.S. Constitution to the criminally accused? Many of these questions remain unanswered as the legal issues wind their way through the courts.

In a case recently considered by the state’s highest tribunal, the issue was whether a Zoom hearing was permissible given certain constitutional rights. As is often the case, the court had to take several different factors into consideration.

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Many times, the resolution of a Cape Cod criminal case revolves around the issue of whether certain evidence was unlawfully obtained by police. If a court rules that a particular search or seizure was in violation of the law, the evidence may be suppressed at trial.

When evidence is suppressed, it cannot be used to support a conviction against the defendant. Without crucial evidence, the Commonwealth’s case may be much weaker. Charges may be reduced or, sometimes, even dropped.

If the defendant loses his or her motion to suppress evidence at the trial court level and is convicted, he or she can file an appeal. When this happens, the appellate tribunal will review the trial court’s decision to determine whether a reversible error of law was made. If the reviewing court does so hold, it is possible that the defendant’s conviction may be reversed.

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If you have been arrested on a felony or misdemeanor charge, a conversation with a Cape Cod criminal defense attorney regarding the details of your situation is crucial in preventing your rights under the United States Constitution from being violated. During the arrest and investigative stage of proceedings, one of the most important of these rights is the right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally speaking, this means that officers must secure a search warrant to search your vehicle or residence unless one of the limited exceptions established by caselaw is present.

During trial, you have a Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel, as well as the right to a jury trial and the right to cross-examine witnesses presented by the government in its case against you. The Sixth Amendment also guarantees those accused of criminal activity the right to be informed of the charges being brought against them and the right to a “speedy” trial.

Once a conviction has taken place, a criminal defendant is protected against cruel and unusual treatment by the Eighth Amendment. Knowing your legal rights at each step of a criminal case is important, as law enforcement must be kept in check lest they overstep their bounds. Continue Reading ›

In a Massachusetts criminal case, such as a matter in which someone is accused of operating a vehicle under the influence, there are several potential defenses that may be asserted by the defendant. One of these is a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights during the collection of the evidence that the Commonwealth seeks to use to prove its case at trial.

One such example would be evidence that was illegally seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment forbids unreasonable searches and seizures and requires that probable cause be shown before a search warrant is issued.

The burden of proof in a criminal prosecution is on the Commonwealth, so excluding illegally obtained evidence at trial can be an important step to a defendant in his or her quest for justice. Without certain key evidence, it may be possible to have charges reduced or, in some instances, get a Cape Cod drunk driving case dismissed.

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There is a large branch of case law devoted to the issues of when a police officer can pull over a vehicle, when that vehicle can be searched, and when the occupants thereof can be made to exit the vehicle. This body of the law holds many general principles, but oftentimes the outcome of, say, a Cape Cod criminal defense case, is dependent on the specific facts presented therein.

For example, what prompted the officer to pull over the vehicle? What did he or she observe when approaching the vehicle? Was any additional information obtained from nearby witnesses?

Facts of the Case

In a recent criminal case considered on appeal, the defendant had been convicted on charges of unlawfully carrying a firearm (and unlawfully carrying a loaded firearm) in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10(a) and (n). He appealed, arguing that it had been error for the arresting officer to order him to get out of the vehicle in which he had been riding based on information obtained by a private security guard from employees of a nearby nightclub.

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Questions concerning the legality of searches and seizures can play heavily in the resolution of a Cape Cod criminal defense case. With appropriate legal representation, it is sometimes possible to get potentially incriminating evidence excluded from the jury’s consideration at trial.

Without this evidence, the Commonwealth’s case may quickly fall apart. This can result in a plea bargain on lesser charges, or, in some cases, in outright dismissal of the case. Of course, the Commonwealth will usually fight hard against such a result, so it is important that the defendant be represented by an attorney well-versed in this area of the law.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the defendant was arrested on numerous drug charges in 2009. He filed a motion to suppress certain evidence concerning calls made to his cell phones – and intercepted by police while he was in custody – relating to the possible sale of illegal substances. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and he was convicted on multiple charges. He appealed, seeking relief from his convictions.

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Many Cape Cod criminal defense cases revolve around the issue of searches and seizures. Police sometimes overstep their bounds during stop-and-frisk incidents, arrests, and the execution of search warrants.

Sometimes, however, the issue is not so much whether a search itself was legal but, rather, whether the evidence that was found by police during the search was of a particular type or located in a place such that a given statute is applicable. Because reasonable minds can disagree about such matters, it is not unusual for such cases not only to proceed to trial (rather than be settled via a plea agreement) but, sometimes, through the appellate process, as well.

Facts of the Case

The defendant in a recent case was charged with carrying a dangerous weapon on his person or under his control in a vehicle in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10(b). The charge was brought after  a woman, with whom the defendant was apparently in a relationship of some sort, made a complaint to police, and police began searching for the defendant. The defendant and the complainant were located inside a truck and camper that was parked in the parking lot of a large retail store. At the time police approached the defendant, who was inside the camper, the camper was hooked up to a running generator. According to the complainant, the pair had been living in the camper for several days at that location.

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A great number of Cape Cod criminal cases revolve around the issue of whether evidence that the government seeks to introduce at the trial of the case was legally obtained. The defendant may argue that a particular search was violative of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. If the court agrees that police violated the defendant’s constitutional rights with regard to a certain search, the evidence obtained through that illegal search must be excluded from the jury’s consideration because it is the “fruit” of the “poisonous tree.” Without the evidence that can no longer be submitted at trial, the government’s case against the defendant may be much weaker, or perhaps non-existent.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the defendant was arrested on a drug trafficking charge. He filed a motion to suppress evidence found in his vehicle by police, insisting that the evidence was the fruit of an illegal search. According to the defendant, the exit order given to him by the police officer who stopped him was illegal, and thus the evidence found by the officer after the defendant stepped out of the vehicle should have been excluded. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress, and he appealed to the intermediate appellate court. That court reversed the lower tribunal’s denial of the defendant’s motion. The Commonwealth sought further review from the state’s highest court.

Decision of the Court

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the court of appeals’ reversal of the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that exit order was not lawfully issued and that, therefore, the evidence obtained by the search should have been suppressed as the fruit of the poisonous tree.

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Among the most important protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution is the freedom from unlawful searches and seizures. Of course, the concept of what is, or is not, an unreasonable search or seizure is subject to much interpretation.

In a Cape Cod operating under the influence (or “OUI”) case, the question of whether a search and seizure was legal often hinges on whether the arresting officer acted in accordance with the law in stopping the defendant – in other words, did he or she have probable cause for the stop?

If a reviewing court determines that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity prior to stopping the defendant, it is likely that any evidence obtained during the stop (and any search and seizure executed in accordance therewith) will be deemed inadmissible at trial.

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There are many instances in which life can change in a split second – a car accident, an injury at work, or, perhaps most unsettling of all, being arrested. In any of these events, it is important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, but this especially true in the case of being accused of a crime by a police officer. A Cape Cod criminal defense attorney can explain your legal rights and help you defend yourself in court. In the meantime, it is very important that you not speak to police about your case. You do have the right to remain silent, and anything you voluntarily say can be used to convict you later on.

Facts of the Case

The defendant in a recent appellate case was a man whose mother was pulled over allegedly failing to display a valid inspection sticker. As the officer approached the vehicle, he noticed that the defendant – who was a passenger in the right front seat – was not wearing a seat belt. Intending to ticket the defendant for this offense, the officer asked the defendant for his identification. As the defendant was giving the officer his identification, a dark-colored object, which the officer believed could possibly be a weapon, fell between the car seat and the console. After backup arrived, the officer ordered the defendant to step out of the car, arrested him on unrelated but outstanding warrants, and searched the vehicle. A loaded .38 caliber snub-nosed revolver was found.

The defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of a loaded firearm. At trial, the defendant’s mother testified that the gun was hers and that the defendant had no knowledge that it was in the vehicle. Nevertheless, the defendant was convicted on both charges. He appealed, alleging that the motion judge should have granted his motion to suppress the firearm, the evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendant was aware that the firearm in question was loaded, the prosecutor made comments in his closing argument that created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice, and the trial judge did not instruct the jury that the Commonwealth was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew the firearm was loaded.

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