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Articles Posted in Criminal Defense

As technology evolves, so does Massachusetts criminal law. Just as those who intentionally engage in criminal activity often rely on technology such as cell phones to conduct their business, police officers and others in law enforcement increasingly rely on information obtained through technology that, just a decade or two ago, may not have even existed.

When an arrest is made based on information obtained through the use of a technological device, the courts must consider whether police acted lawfully in light of the 4th Amendment prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures, as well as other relevant legal principles.

Facts of the Case

In an appellate case arising from a decision of the Supreme Judicial Court for the County of Suffolk, the defendant was a man who was indicted on a charge of trafficking cocaine in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 94C, § 32E(b) after police found cocaine and cash in a crawlspace located inside his residence. This evidence was found during a warrantless search, to which the defendant consented after police obtained his location through use of the defendant’s cell site location information. The defendant filed a motion to suppress the cocaine and cash on the grounds that they had been the fruit of an illegal search and seizure.

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Under the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, police officers are required to obtain a warrant in order to execute a search and seizure of a criminal defendant’s home in most situations. Whether or not an exception exists to this general rule is a frequent issue in a Massachusetts criminal case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, police entered a building that contained four apartments. They did not have a warrant but were acting on information supplied by a 9-1-1 caller to the effect that she had seen some men go into the building with a gun. There had been several home invasions in town, although the record did not specify whether those events were in the same neighborhood. While they were conducting “protective sweep” of the building, police officers observed what appeared to be illegal narcotics. After the suspects were arrested in a different part of the building, officers obtained a search warrant for the apartment unit in which the drugs were seen, and the resident thereof was indicted.

In addition to the effective assistance of counsel from a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, a person who is criminally accused also has the right to a fair and impartial jury in a criminal proceeding. This sounds like an easy enough proposition, but there can be many issues that go into the determination of exactly what constitutes “fair” and “impartial” jurors in a given case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent criminal case considered on direct review by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the defendant was charged with possession of an illegal substance with intent to distribute. During voir dire, a prospective juror stated that she believed that “the system is rigged” against individuals of the defendant’s general age, gender, and race. That juror was excused for cause by the trial court judge, and the case was tried to a jury that did not include that particular juror.

After being convicted, the defendant sought appellate review of his case, arguing that the trial court judge had abused his discretion in dismissing the prospective juror who had expressed her opinion about the legal system being “rigged.” The supreme judicial court granted an application for direct appellate review.

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With ever-increasing technological advances, it is quite possible for someone to be accused of a crime which did not exist just a few years ago. As any Cape Cod criminal defense attorney can confirm, it is also true that there many new ways for “old” crimes to be committed.

For example, the crime of criminal harassment (sometimes referred to as “stalking”) is not necessarily a new offense, but, with modern technology, there are now many more ways in which someone might find themselves accused of violating the law with respect to this crime.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the defendant was charged with two counts of criminal harassment in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 265, § 43A due to his alleged use of global positioning system (GPS) devices to track the movements of two particular individuals. The defendant and the victims had never met in person, but the defendant had allegedly placed GPS devices on the underside of each of their victims’ vehicles, allowing him to track their movements. Although the defendant’s motivation was not completely known, he claimed that his actions were in light with him “guarding the hen house.”

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In a Massachusetts criminal case, it is not unusual for a defendant to be ordered to pay restitution to the victim of his or her crime. If the defendant is placed on probation, timely payment of restitution may be a condition of the defendant not being incarcerated.

If the defendant does not abide by the terms of his or her probation, the trial court may revoke the defendant’s status as a probationer and order that he or she be placed in prison or county jail.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently under consideration by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court, the defendant was a woman who had been convicted on criminal charges (larceny and identity fraud) in 2008. She was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $28,200 in restitution, at rate of at least $100 per month. The defendant’s probation was extended several times, and her monthly restitution obligation was adjusted both upwards and downwards at various times. In February 2017, the defendant was still on probation and still owed over $14,000 in restitution.

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In a Cape Cod criminal case, the Commonwealth has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If police acted illegally during the arrest or investigation of the case, it may be possible to have certain evidence excluded at trial.

Even if a defendant is convicted, a case may be reviewed on appeal. It is not unheard of for an appellate court to disagree with a trial court as to whether the evidence introduced at trial was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently reviewed by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, a criminal defendant was convicted of several crimes involving the unlawful possession of a firearm. He sought reversal of his conviction on appeal, arguing, among other things, that police had violated the Fourth Amendment by conducting an illegal search and seizure and that there was insufficient evidence to support certain aspects of his conviction.

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If you are like millions of other Americans, you probably have a cell phone in your hand or in your pocket right now. As any Massachusetts criminal defense attorney can tell you, there is a lot of data on your cellphone that, potentially, could be used against you in court if you are accused of a crime.

What you may not know is that all of the potentially incriminating data is not on your phone itself. Wireless carriers across the country log a time-stamped record of each cell site and sector each time a cellphone connects to a cell site, thereby providing a very detailed record of a user’s whereabouts.

It is important to note that this doesn’t just happen when the user is making a phone call or sending a text message; the average smart phone taps into a wireless network at least once a minute any time the signal is on, even if the phone is not being used for calling, texting, or searching the internet at that moment.

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A person who has been accused of committing a crime has the right to remain silent. As any Cape Cod criminal defense attorney can tell you, exercising this right is vitally important.

This is because, as we’ve all heard on television and in the movies, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Far too often, individuals waive this right, and their own words are used later to convict them.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the defendant was arrested and charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a loaded firearm in violation of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 269, § 10(a), (n) after he was found sitting in a parking lot with a revolver and a semiautomatic pistol in the vicinity of his truck. At trial, the defendant was convicted as charged. He appealed. Continue reading

There’s an expression to the effect that “you can’t fight city hall.” While this statement is not always true (after all, an assertive Cape Cod criminal defense attorney may be of great assistance in defeating a particular accusation of wrongdoing), there is some truth to the sentiment that it can sometimes be a complicated endeavor to challenge the ruling of a municipal official on a relatively minor point. Those who aspire to fight the ruling of a government official, such as a clerk or magistrate who finds that one has violated the speed limit, should be mindful that, unless proper procedures are followed, the effort is likely to be in vain.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was given a speeding ticket for driving in excess of the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour in a certain town in 2011. The plaintiff contested his responsibility for the infraction (which was defined as a “civil motor vehicle infraction”) by requesting a hearing. The clerk-magistrate found the plaintiff responsible for the infraction. Although the plaintiff could have requested a de novo hearing in district court, he apparently paid the ticket and filed a separate lawsuit against the defendant board of selectmen instead, alleging that he was unlawfully cited and fined. The superior court dismissed the plaintiff’s case in its entirety.

Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, a person who has been accused of a crime has certain rights, including the right to a speedy and public trial. Depending upon the circumstances, the defendant may have the right to have his or her guilt or innocence determined by a jury at trial.

There are many procedures that must be followed during a jury trial, and any irregularity has the potential to trigger a new trial on the order of an appellate court. Of course, each case must be decided on its particular facts.

Facts of the Case