May 2012 Archives

May 23, 2012

Man Charged with Attemted Murder for Home Invasion in Massachusetts State Trooper's Home

A Massachusetts State Trooper's home was the subject of an attempted robbery and shooting this past weekend by a man reportedly from Oklahoma who was in town for a family funeral. The man, charged with Massachusetts Crimes of Violence Charges, was arraigned in Plymouth District Court on charges including Home Invasion, Attempted Murder, and Gun Crimes Charges.

According to the Plymouth County District Attorney's Office, the man allegedly appeared at the Massachusetts trooper's home with a gun and attempted to gain access. When other police officers responded to the area, the man then allegedly fired his gun at them.

The crime of Home Invasion in Massachusetts is defined as the unlawful entry into the home of another with the threat to use force and while armed with a dangerous weapon. The penalty upon conviction for the crime of Home Invasion is severe, which carries a minimum-mandatory sentence of 20 years and up to life in state prison.

The crime of Attempted Murder in Massachusetts is where a person, with the specific intent to commit the crime of Murder, takes an overt act towards committing murder and came reasonably close to doing so. Attempted Murder is punishable with a sentence to state prison for up to 10 years.

Strictly considering the potential penalties involved in these types of crimes, there aren't that many crimes that are considered more 'serious' than Home Invasion. As such, these types of crimes are prosecuted extremely aggressively. In this case, given that the purported victim was a Massachusetts State Trooper, the defendant here can expect that the district attorney's office will make this case a priority.

That being said, the defendant here should be sure to have competent and aggressive counsel on his side.

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May 22, 2012

Boston City Workers Charged With Massachusetts Drug Crimes

Two Boston city employees were arraigned this morning on Massachusetts Drug Crimes Charges following their arrest last friday. Each were charged with Drug Distribution; Unlawful Drug Possession; School Zone Violation; and Conspiracy to Violate the Drug Laws.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, one of the city workers was employed as a Boston parking enforcement officer and the other, while the other was employed as a Boston crossing guard.

Boston Police were reportedly conducting surveillance when they allegedly observed the parking enforcement officer, while in uniform, enter a vehicle and then get out with his fist clenched. Police allegedly recovered two percocet pills when he was later stopped and searched.

In cases such as these, it is critical that the defense scrutinizes the facts that the police purportedly relied upon in justifying their stopping and then searching anyone alleged to be involved in a drug transaction. A person charged with a Massachusetts Drug Crime will certainly want to consider challenging whether the police had reasonable suspicion or even probable cause to initiate a search. A successful constitutional challenge on these grounds could lead to the drugs and other evidence being 'suppressed' or thrown out, without which there might not be any evidence for the prosecution to go forward.

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May 16, 2012

Massachusetts' Armed Career Criminal Sentencing Enhancement

Enacted in 1998, the Massachusetts Armed Career Criminal Statute, M.G.L. c. 269, section 10G, otherwise known as "ACC", imposes enhanced penalties for persons previously convicted of a "violent crime" or a "serious drug offense."

Depending on the number of prior convictions that might form the basis of an ACC enhanced indictment, a person may be indicted as an armed career criminal as a level 1, 2 or 3. ACC Level 1 provides for an additional punishment of a minimum-mandatory sentence of 3 to 15 years; Level 2 provides for 10-15 years; and Level 3 provides for a 15-20 year sentence to state prison.

But what "violent crime" is sufficient to form a basis of an enhance Armed Career Criminal indictment?

Massachusetts criminal law defines a violent crime as:

Any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year...that:
  1. has as an element the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force or a deadly weapon against the person of another;
  2. is burglary, extortion, arson or kidnapping;
  3. involves the use of explosives; or
  4. otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious risk of physical injury to another.

However, some crimes that might appear to be "violent crimes" may not qualify as a predicate "violent crime", such as the crime of Assault & Battery, which may be prosecuted under various theories. For instance, a "harmful battery" and "reckless battery" are violent crimes because they each have as an element the use of "physical force".

Another theory of Assault & Battery, however, is an "offensive battery", which does not have as an element the use of "physical force".

Especially in cases where someone is charged with an enhanced sentencing indictment such as under the Armed Career Criminal Statute, it is so critical that they are represented by an experienced Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer that knows the law well and how to apply that knowledge in the defense of his client.

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May 11, 2012

Massachusetts Man Charged with Manslaughter In Brother-In-Law's Death

A Cohasset man was arrested for Massachusetts Murder Charges following the family brawl that ended in the death of his brother-in-law. The man was arraigned in Quincy District Court earlier this week and charged with Manslaughter.

According to the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office, Cohasset police responded to the defendant's home and found him to be unresponsive. The victim's father told police that family were celebrating the man's birthday when he became loud and began swearing. One witness told police that the victim had gone into a rage and had hit someone over the head with a chair.

The defendant allegedly tried to calm him and the two began fighting, eventually putting the victim in a headlock. When the defendant released him, the victim was motionless and unresponsive.

Voluntary Manslaughter in Massachusetts is defined as murder but with mitigating circumstances the lessen a defendant's culpability for the act. Where both crimes of Murder and Manslaughter each require proof of an unlawful killing, the crime may be voluntary manslaughter if it occurred under mitigating circumstances; in other words, without malice.

Some examples of mitigating circumstances involving the crime of manslaughter could be heat of passion upon reasonable provocation; heat of passion by sudden combat; or excessive force in self-defense.

By contrast, Involuntary Manslaughter in Massachusetts is defined as the unlawful killing unintentionally caused by wanton or reckless conduct, which creates a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to another. It may also be commission of a batter in circumstances that the person knows or reasonably should know endanger human life.

In either theory of manslaughter, it is an absolute defense if the person acted in self-defense or in the defense of another, which appears to be the case here.

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May 3, 2012

Massachusetts Court Rules Antique Guns Exempt from Criminal Statute

In the recent case of Commonwealth v. Leslie Burton-Brown, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered the issue of whether a gun, manufactured before 1900, were unlawful to own/possess under the Massachusetts' Gun Crimes Laws.

After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, Unlawful Possession of Ammunition, and Unlawful Possession of a Loaded Firearm. In his appeal, the defendant asserted that his convictions should be overturned because the gun at issue was manufactured before 1900, and under the law as written, he could lawfully possess the firearm with having been issued a license to carry.

Under the statute which criminalized the possession of a firearm without a license, the language further reads that the "...provisions of the [statute] shall not apply to...any firearms, rifle, or shotgun manufactured in or prior to the year 1899."

In reversing the defendant's conviction, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court resounded that, given the language of the statute, the defendant could not have been convicted of unlawfully possession this antique gun. The SJC went even further and overruled a prior Massachusetts Appeals Court case which had previously ruled that no "antique gun exemption" existed.

Moving forward, where a defendant is charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, attorneys should give the appropriate pre-trial notice to rely on the affirmative defense of exemption so that the defendant could demonstrate to the jury, through expert testimony, that the gun is, in fact, an antique.

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