Boston Criminal Lawyers Blog
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A New York federal judge ruled that the United States government’s phone gathering system is constitutional and a necessary measure to combat possible terrorist attacks against the country. The judge further ruled that Congress was within its rights to establish the system and that it does not violate any citizen’s constitutional rights.

Notably, this New York decision is contrary to the rulings of a Washington D.C. judge who held earlier in December that the program is likely unconstitutional. Essentially, one judge found that the NSA program is successful in thwarting potential terrorist attacks before they come to fruition; while the other judge ruled that he was not convinced that the program was producing any results at all. Given the contrary rulings and expected appeals in both cases, the issue will likely find its way to the United States Supreme Court at some point.

The New York federal court judge based his decision on several points, including reliance on a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that held that individual telephone consumers do not have privacy rights in the data that the company retains regarding their use of service.

He also ruled that Congress has complete discretion to grant power to the government to conduct secret surveillance; and that there is violation of individual privacy rights in the program developed by the NSA. In so holding, he concluded that the telephone data collected by the NSA does not belong to the individual consumers, but to the telephone companies themselves.

Obviously, there is still tremendous debate about the constitutional and privacy issues surrounding the NSA data gathering program. What is clear, however, is that there is no definitive legal authority on whether the program is constitutional or not. Until the issue reaches the United States Supreme Judicial Court, each jurisdiction will be deciding the issues inconsistently.

Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for free consultation. Click Here to Schedule a Free Consultation or call 617-325-9500.

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The Massachusetts Declaration of Rights and the United States Constitution afford every citizen with certain fundamental rights, including the right to remain silent and assert one’s privilege against self-incrimination. Just about everyone has heard of that right, but believe it or not, many people charged with a crime either don’t exercise it, or don’t properly assert.

The United States Constitution states that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” Accordingly, every person subjected to a custodial interrogation must be warned that he (1) has a right to remain silent; (2) any statement he makes can be used as evidence against him; (3) that he has a right to consult with an attorney and that if he cannot afford one one will be appointed; and (4) that if he does choose to speak, that he has a right to stop questioning at any time. Once these warnings are provided, a defendant’s subsequent statements are only admissible as evidence against him at trial if the government shows, by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant gave a knowing, voluntary and intelligent waiver of those rights.

Against this backdrop, it’s not enough to just tell the police that you “might” want to speak with a lawyer or are “considering” consulting with an attorney. Police are only required to stop questioning upon a clear and unambiguous request for counsel. In other words, the invocation of the right to an attorney must be sufficiently clear that the police officer understands the statement to be a request for a lawyer.

Yes, it may appear all too simple to simply say “No more questions, I would like to speak to a lawyer at this time” or words to that effect, but all too often that is not case. Whether because of duress of the circumstances and being under interrogation; the person’s lack of knowledge or experience in the justice system or mere ignorance, it is all too common to see people who did really want to consult with a lawyer but unfortunately didn’t properly assert their request so that the police stopped questioning them.

In fact, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has considered a wide variety of circumstances where the person’s request for an attorney was too “ambiguous”, thereby ruling that the request to stop questioning was sufficient. For example, the statement to police “I might need a lawyer and want to talk with him before talking to you” was held not to be a proper invocation of the right to counsel.

Accordingly, persons who find themselves in police custody and subject to an interrogation should unambiguously and clearly invoke their right to counsel and to remain silent by stating “I do not want to answer any questions until I first speak with a lawyer.”

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation on all Massachusetts Criminal Charges.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney or call 617-325-9500.

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A 20 year old man from Boston was arrested this past Thursday on Massachusetts Drug Charges in Weymouth. He was charged with Drug Distribution, Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Conspiracy to Violate the Drug Laws, and Resisting Arrest.

According to the Weymouth Police Department, the defendant was alleged to have engaged in a drug transaction with a Weymouth man at a home on Pierce Road. That man was arrested on similar drug charges. Police had received tips about alleged drug dealing at that address.

One of the most important steps in defending any drug case is evaluating the specific facts and circumstances involving the person’s arrest. Anyone who has been the subject of a search to their person or property by police can challenge that search under the United States Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.

If a challenge to the search of the person and the seizure of contraband is successful, then the court can suppress or exclude whatever item was seized as a result of the constitutional violation. For example, if the police stopped someone on the street and search them without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, then the drugs, guns or whatever else illegal was recovered could be thrown out of the case.

Cases involving searches and seizures depend on very specific fact patterns and legal issues. It is important that you have a qualified and experienced attorney evaluate your case and examine any constitutional issues very closely.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for all Massachusetts Drug Crimes Charges, including Drug Distribution and Possession with Intent to Distribute Drugs.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Drug Crimes Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.

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A Somerville High School student was arraigned yesterday on several Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges, including Aggravated Rape of a Child in connection with the alleged sexual assault of another young high school athlete with a broomstick.

A total of three Somerville students who were attending a retreat in the Berkshires at Camp Lenox and allegedly sought out three other students and attempted to assault them. The students were members of the Somerville’s soccer team and several other students who were participating at a summer camp at Camp Lenox in Otis.

Police allege that the three students took a broomstick to rape and sexual assault a freshman student; and also tried to do the same to two other students but they were able to escape. According to prosecutors, blood and other evidence was recovered from the scene.

The three students, all juniors, were charged with a variety of sexual assault charges, including indent assault and battery on a person; aggravated rape of a child; assault with intent to rape; intimidation of a witness; and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

The crime of aggravated rape is charged where, in addition to the rape of a person, the act committed also resulting in serious bodily injury to the person; was committed by joint venture; or was committed during the commission or attempted commission of another crime.

As with most Massachusetts sex crimes, a conviction for aggravated rape will subject the defendant to sex offender registration and possibly other collateral sex crime consequences.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation on all Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges, including aggravated rape, indecent assault and battery, and assault with intent to rape.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Sex Crimes Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.

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Jared Remy, of Waltham, was charged this week in Waltham District Court with Massachusetts Murder Charges in connection with the stabbing death of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel.

According to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office, Waltham Police officers responded to a 911 call at Remy’s apartment and found what they described as a scene indicating a struggle inside and outside of the home. Ms. Martel, according to police, was located on the patio outside with multiple stab wounds.

A neighbor, identified by the Boston Globe as Benjamin Ray, told the media he witnessed the incident; that Remy was repeatedly stabbing her with a knife. He told reporters that he tried to stop it but it wasn’t enough.

Several reports have since surfaced that suggest that there had been prior incident of alleged domestic violence involving Remy and Jennifer Martel, including a pending Waltham District Court case for domestic assault & battery that Remy had reportedly been arraigned on earlier this week.

Remy pled not guilty to the Murder Charges, which is punishable by life imprisonment.

In Massachusetts, first degree murder can be charged where the act is committed with either deliberate premeditation and malice; or extreme atrocity or cruelty with malice.

However, some circumstances may present themselves in this case that might lessen this defendant’s culpability for the alleged act. Some examples of mitigating circumstances may include heat of passion upon reasonable provocation; sudden combat; or excessive force in self-defense.

In order to be convicted of voluntary manslaughter, the prosecutor would have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that (1) the defendant intentionally inflicted injuries likely to cause death; and (2) that the defendant acted unlawfully. The penalty for imprisonment upon conviction for voluntary manslaughter is commitment to state prison for up to 20 years.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation on all Massachusetts Murder Charges, including first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter charges.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Murder Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.

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The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently reversed the conviction of a man who was convicted of Annoying or Accosting a Person of the Opposite Sex where the government failed to provide proof that the alleged conduct involved a sexual element.

The prosecution alleged that the defendant approached a woman and tried repeatedly to converse with her. She ignored his attempts and the defendant then left in his car. Sometime later, the defendant again approached the woman and ordered her to get in the car. Eventually, the defendant drove away, but not before the woman was able to get the man’s license plate.

Following trial, the defendant was convicted with having Annoyed or Accosted a Person of the Opposite Sex and appealed.

The Appeals Court reversed the conviction, holding that although the defendant’s conduct “may have been offensive in a generic sense”, it did not comport with the legal definition of “offensive” under the law.

Under the statute, in order for the conduct to be “offensive”, it must have caused displeasure, anger or resentment and was “repugnant to the prevailing sense of what is decent or moral. Whether the conduct is “decent or moral” suggests an intent to reach sexually explicit acts or language.

In this case, the appeals court found, although the conduct was offensive in the general sense, it was devoid of any sexual content, and the evidence was therefore insufficient to prove the crime.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation on all Massachusetts Sex Crimes Charges, as well as all Criminal Appeals.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Appeals Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.

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In the case of Salinas v. Texas, the United States Supreme Judicial Court recently considered the question of whether a defendant’s pre-arrest silence, prior to being placed in custody or receiving Miranda warnings, can be used against him in a subsequent criminal prosecution as evidence of consciousness of guilt.

In this case, prior to being taken into custody, the defendant voluntarily answered some questions from police about a murder. After answering several questions, the defendant remained silent when he was asked whether any ballistic evidence testing would yield matches between his shotgun and the shell casings found at the crime scene. Rather than answer, the defendant remained silent, shuffled his feet, and bit his lip.

After being silent for several moment, he then continued answering other questions from the police.

At trial for murder, the prosecution introduce evidence of the defendant’s silence as evidence of consciousness of guilt.

The United States Supreme Judicial Court held that, in circumstances of pre-arrest and where a person has voluntarily chose to speak with police, merely being silent does not automatically assert your 5th Amendment Rights. Rather, the person being questions must expressly invoke the 5th Amendment Protection, i.e., right to remain silent, otherwise it is not invoked and prosecutors may then use that silence against the person at trial.

The court wrote:

“A witness’s constitutional right to refuse to answer questions depends on his reasons for doing so and courts need to know those reasons to evaluate the merits of a Fifth Amendment claim…”

In this regard, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument that a person’s silence should be understood as a Fifth Amendment plea because most people do not know the law.

The Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, however, offers greater protection to criminal defendants. In similar circumstances, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has previously suggested that a defendant’s pre-arrest silence should not be used as evidence of consciousness of guilt.

Boston Criminal Appeals Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available 24/7 for consultation on all Massachusetts Criminal Appeals.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Appeals Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.

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In the case of Commonwealth v. Joshua Lewis, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently emphasized the limitations prosecutors are required to abide by when arguing their cases before juries.

In that case, the defendant was charged with assault with intent to murder and several firearms offenses after being shot and wounded by a Massachusetts State Police Trooper. At trial, the defendant’s attorney argued that the defendant did not have a gun, fired at the defendant without justification, and then placed a gun where the defendant was laying.

In closing arguments, the prosecutor made statements to the jury that the defendant was a “street thug” and even went so far as calling the defendant’s attorney a liar; and the defendant’s theory of defense a “sham”.

An except of the prosecutor’s closing went like this:

“The entire defense in this case, I’d suggest to you, is a sham.”

“[what about] the wad of money in his front pocket. Of course, all us unemployed people have a big wad of money in our pocket. Where’s my money? They are street thugs who are out, and that they’re going to do with those guns, luckily, we didn’t get a chance to find out.”

“It’s the arrogance of street thugs that gets you in this case.”

“As you look over all of this evidence…[it] will be obvious to you that the lies came from [the defense] table. And I’m not leaving out the attorney either…”

The defendant’s convictions for the crimes of assault with intent to murder and firearms offenses were reversed by the Massachusetts SJC as a result of these improper comments made by the prosecutor to the jury.

In Massachusetts criminal trials, prosecutor are permitted to argue forcefully for a conviction based on the evidence, but it is improper to refer to: the defendant’s election to not testify; misstate evidence or refer to facts not in evidence; interject personal belief in the defendant’s guilt; play on racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice; play on the jury’s sympathy or emotions; or comment on the consequences of a verdict.

Aside from being completely unprofessional, a prosecutor may also certainly not personally disparage the attorney or infer that the attorney is somehow misleading the jury.

In the same way, it is improper for prosecutors to repeatedly refer to the defendant as a “street thug”, as this characterization encourages the jury to find the defendant guilty by virtue of his purported association with known criminals. Particularly in cases where there was no evidence of any such illicit associations, these arguments are extremely prejudicial to the defendant and may rise, as in this case, to the level of requiring reversal of the convictions.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis has experience in defending persons charged with Massachusetts Crimes of Violence and Criminal Appeals, and is available 24/7 for consultation.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Appeals Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.

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In a recent case involving a constitutional challenge to seizing a person’s DNA without his consent, the United States Supreme Judicial Court, in Maryland v. King, considered whether it is a constitutional violation for police officers to take a defendant’s DNA as part of the normal booking procedure following an arrest. This was authorized by a statute enacted in Maryland.

In that case, the defendant was arrested on assault charges. During the booking process, officers used a cheek swab to take a DNA sample from the defendant. The swab was ultimately matched to an unsolved 2003 rape, and the defendant was charged with that crime as well.

The defendant moved to suppress the taken of his DNA without his consent or without a court order, and the case eventually made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which held that:

When police make an arrest supported by probable cause for a serious offense and the suspect is detained at the police station, it is reasonable under the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution to take and analyze that persons DNA. This, the court held, is a legitimate booking procedure, much like taking a person’s fingerprints or photographing the defendant.

Incredulously, the United States Supreme Court majority held that a buccal swab for the taking of DNA evidence is a relatively slight intrusion on the privacy interests of a person; while also ensuring the government’s interest in accurate identifying those persons arrested.

Notably, Justice Scalia ripped the decision in his dissent, inferring that the real reason the police take a person’s DNA is not to identify them, but to solve crimes.

Despite the Supreme Court’s rulings, the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights generally affords greater constitutional and privacy protection for its citizens. With respect to the taking of DNA evidence, no Massachusetts statute permits police officers to routinely take a person’s DNA as part of the booking process.

Rather, the taking of a person’s DNA without his consent may only be compelled by court order or upon conviction by statute. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 22E, Section 3, mandates that any person convicted of a felony must submit their DNA to be included into the state’s database.

Boston Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis is available for consultation 24/7 on all Massachusetts Criminal Charges.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.

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In Commonwealth v. Akara, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered whether evidence of a defendant’s “gang affiliation” was properly admissible in his murder trial on a theory of joint venture.

In that case, the defendant was charged as a joint venturer in the murder of Philip Gadsden at an MBTA station.

At trial, the government introduced evidence of the defendant’s gang affiliation through the testimony of a Boston Police Officer. The officer testified that the Boston Police Department classifies any group or association of four or more people who call themselves by a group name and have various identifying signs, symbols or clothing. At trial, witnesses testified that the defendants were associated with a particular gang, but there was no evidence of any specific criminal activity by this gang other than alleged vandalism.

Notably, there was also no evidence of any motive for the murder or that the victim was associated with any “rival” gang.

Gang evidence may be admissible in criminal trials to show motive or to establish “joint venture”. Although the gang evidence in this case did not go to establish motive, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that it was properly admitted to establish evidence of the defendants’ relationship, which in turn bolstered the prosecutor’s theory of joint venture.

This is not to say that all evidence of gang affiliation is automatically admissible in criminal trials. Defense attorneys will make efforts to exclude gang evidence at trial, particularly where a defendant’s purported gang membership is so prejudicial that it might suggest to a jury that he has a propensity to crime of violence.

Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer Lefteris K. Travayiakis represents persons charged with all crimes, including Murder, and is available 24/7 for consultation.

To schedule a Free Consultation, Click Here to Contact a Boston Murder Lawyer or call 617-325-9500.