Supreme Judicial Court Issues Important Ruling on Police Interrogations

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an important decision concerning police interrogations. In Commonwealth v. Smith, the highest court in the Commonwealth reversed a defendant’s murder and attempted armed robbery convictions, and in doing so issued a clear reminder about the importance of honoring a suspect’s Miranda rights, specifically his or her right to remain silent.  The case also raises important questions for criminal defense lawyers and serves as a reminder to those charged with crimes that it does not help to talk to the police without first consulting a lawyer. In…Read more

Medical Marijuana and Drugged Driving in Massachusetts

Voters in Massachusetts voted in November 2012 to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but lawmakers are still working out the details of how to incorporate the reform into the state's existing regulatory structure. One issue that is likely to grow increasingly relevant for medical marijuana users in Massachusetts is the issue of drugged driving and how such charges are prosecuted in the Commonwealth. Massachusetts drugged driving law Massachusetts law provides that a driver can be charged with OUI for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs, including…Read more

Warrant Required for Forced DUI Blood Draw, Supreme Court Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling recently that reinforces the rights of people stopped by police on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. On April 17, 2013, the Court ruled that police officers should have obtained a warrant before having blood forcibly drawn from a man suspected of DUI after he refused to give his consent to BAC test. This issue has been the topic of widespread debate throughout the country in recent years. Some law enforcement agencies have argued that warrants should not be required due to the time-sensitive…Read more

“Pocket Parks” Reduce Housing Options for People Convicted of Sex Crimes

In a trend that is gaining momentum throughout the country, a growing number of communities are establishing tiny parks in an effort to drive registered sex offenders out of town. The tactic takes advantage of laws that place residency restrictions on people convicted of certain sexual offenses, often barring offenders from living near schools, playgrounds and other places where children are likely to congregate. Strategy may be detrimental to public safety According to a recent article in the New York Times, some of these new playgrounds - nicknamed "pocket parks" - are so…Read more

Threat to Sue is Witness Intimidation, Not Protected Speech

On October 22, 2014, In an unpublished opinion in Commonwealth v. Simeone, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled that a person who threatens to sue a witness in a criminal case with the specific intent to impede or obstruct the witness from participating in a criminal proceeding can be found guilty of Witness Intimidation under G.L. ch. 268 § 13B. In this case, the defendant in a criminal proceeding admitted to saying to a witness "[w]ait until [your] court date, [I'm] going to make sure [you] get screwed,” and also admitted that he…Read more

Federal Judge Upends §1983 Civil Rights Jury Verdict Because of Pretrial Probation

PRETRIAL PROBATION AND §1983 CIVIL RIGHTS CLAIMS In a decision published September 30, 2014, United States District Court Judge O’Toole reversed a jury’s determination that the plaintiff was wrongfully arrested because the defendant participated in Pretrial Probation in Massachusetts State Courts. Kennedy v. Town of Billerica (Civil Action No. 10-11457-GAO).  The decision notes the lack of First Circuit law on this issue, and cites a circuit split regarding whether pretrial probation is the type of “successful termination” that can permit bringing an action for wrongful arrest under.  42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pretrial Probation…Read more

Police Officer Kills Teenager in St. Louis

Yesterday, another white police officer killed a black teenager. This killing occurred in St. Louis, Missouri. See Wall St. J., St. Louis Police Officer Fatally Shoots Man (Oct. 9, 2014). An off-duty police officer was patrolling a neighborhood in uniform for a private security company. See id.; Wash. Post, Crowds in Streets of St. Louis after Fatal Shooting by Off-Duty Police Officer (Oct. 9, 2014). The Police report that the deceased teenager was one of three men who turned and ran upon seeing the officer. See Wash. Post, supra. The officer gave chase…Read more

VALOR Act Provides Alternative to Prosecution for Certain Veterans

On May 31, 2012, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law Senate Bill 2254, better known as the VALOR Act. See Governor's Press Release. Among its many provisions, the VALOR Act gives the district courts and the Boston Municipal Courts the power to divert certain servicemen and veterans to treatment programs rather than prosecute them as alleged criminals. See G.L. c. 276A, § 10. Not every veteran charged with a crime qualifies for the special diversion program, and not every veteran who qualifies for the program should elect to participate in it. But the…Read more

Supreme Judicial Court Hears Arguments on Hate-Crime Law

On October 7, 2014, the Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in Commonwealth v. Kelly, SJC-11616, a case interpreting the law that criminalizes certain civil-rights violations. See Case Information Page. In Kelly, the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office prosecuted several party-goers for committing civil-rights violations. The District Attorney's Office accused the party-goers of picking a fight and beating up a black man at the party because he was black. A jury convicted them of several offenses, including hate crimes in violation of G.L. c. 265, §§ 37 and 39. In relevant part, section 37…Read more

Lower Alcohol Limit for Massachusetts OUI: Probably Not Anytime Soon

Each state has the authority to write and enforce its own criminal laws; however, this does not mean that the Federal government cannot make recommendations and push states to make changes. In May, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states should lower the legal blood-alcohol limit from .08 to .05. A change in Massachusetts DUI/OUI law would require state action and the issue is not currently on the Massachusetts legislature's agenda. State senators and local law enforcement have stated that the idea needs further review. Any change will take time, if the…Read more
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