Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

When do Massachusetts Searches Become Illegal?

Law enforcement in Quincy recently followed a pickup truck carrying approximately 200 pounds of marijuana and proceeded to charge a man with possession with intent to distribute the drug. The arrest occurred after law enforcement followed the man’s truck to the location and watched him drop off several duffel bags that contained marijuana. Law enforcement had to forcibly enter the man’s house to perform the arrest after the bags were delivered. 

Once inside the home, law enforcement located a pistol, bullets, and packaging material. The man was also charged with conspiracy to violate drug laws as well as possession of a firearm and ammunition without a firearm identification card. Two other people at the homes were also arraigned on drug charges and released on a $1,000 bail. Investigators later claimed that the arrest came from a tip that a truck would drop off a large amount of marijuana transported from New York.

Massachusetts residents are protected from unlawful searches of their person as well as homes, vehicles, and other property. To perform a legal search, a law enforcement officer must either have a valid warrant to search the subject or probable cause to perform a search. 

Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, any evidence of a criminal act that is obtained during a search or seizure is not admissible in a court proceeding. Many marijuana and other drug-related charges have been dismissed because it has been established that law enforcement lacked probable cause or a valid warrant. To provide you with a better understanding of these issues, this article discusses the role of search warrants in Massachusetts.

The Role of Search Warrants in Massachusetts

For a search warrant to be classified as valid, it must specifically identify the premises to be searched. For example, a valid search warrant will identify which vehicle or property address will be searched by law enforcement. If a specific property is to be searched, the warrant must contain the correct address. These warrants must also be supported by probable cause, which must be based on specific facts. Lastly, search warrants will only be classified as valid if they are signed and issued by a judge.

Rules for Executing a Search Warrant

Not only must warrants meet certain requirements to be valid, they also must be executed in specific ways. In Massachusetts, law enforcement officials must knock on the door of a residence as well as identify themselves and their purpose when executing a search warrant. If there is no answer at the residence or inhabitants are not cooperative, situations might necessitate law enforcement to use force to access the property. There are also some limited exceptions to the knock and announce rule that permits law enforcement to enter a residence without knocking. 

Speak with an Experienced Drug Charge Attorney

If you are charged with any type of marijuana-related offense in Massachusetts, it can help to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.

What Makes a Massachusetts Arrest Lawful?

A man in Boston was recently arrested in connection with eight unarmed robbery offenses that occurred between November 2019 to February 2020. Charging documents reveal that the man wore a black ski mask and black gloves during the robberies, during which he demanded cash from bank tellers. The man has been charged with two counts of interference with commerce through threats or violence and can end up facing a maximum of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 on each account.

Each year, Massachusetts law enforcement arrests many individuals for interference with commerce as well as many other criminal offenses. When Massachusetts law enforcement arrests a person, they deprive that individual of the fundamental right to freedom. Given the importance of the right to freedom, Massachusetts law enforcement must follow several requirements while making an arrest. 

Some arrest requirements also help to make sure that law enforcement does not make a mistake while making an arrest that could end up jeopardizing the outcome of a charge. While the exact nature of arrests changes slightly between Massachusetts police departments, this article discusses some of the most critical procedures that police must follow when making an arrest.

When Law Enforcement can Make Arrest

Law enforcement in Massachusetts is only permitted to make an arrest in limited circumstances, which include:

  • When law enforcement has a judge-issued arrest warrant

  • When law enforcement believes that the individual arrested committed a crime

  • When law enforcement personally observes a crime

It is not permissible for law enforcement to arrest someone merely because the police have a “hunch” that someone committed a criminal offense.

Arrest Procedures Law Enforcement Must Follow

Arrests occur when a person reasonably believes that he or she is no longer free to leave law enforcement’s custody. Law enforcement is not required to use handcuffs or place a person in a police vehicle, but law enforcement might engage in these activities to remain safe. While there is no requirement that law enforcement read a person’s Miranda Rights at the time of an arrest, the police must read a person these rights before an interrogation. 

As a result, many law enforcement offices will read a person their Miranda Rights at the time of that person’s arrest. Additionally, most police officers will inform a person about why they are being arrested, but Massachusetts law enforcement has no legal obligation to do so.

Excessive Force and Massachusetts Arrests

In addition to the previously mentioned requirements, law enforcement officers are also not permitted to use excessive force or cruelty when making an arrest. Most times, law enforcement officers are only permitted to use the minimum amount of force necessary to both protect themselves and bring the suspect into custody. By resisting an arrest, a person increases the degree of force that law enforcement might use. This is why it is rarely a good idea to resist an arrest.

Speak with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

Massachusetts prosecutors take robbery offenses seriously To respond to these charges, it can help greatly to retain the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Emergency Court Closures Extended to May 4th

Today the SJC entered an order extending the general closure of trial courts until May 4th, with exceptions for "emergency matters," which appears to be limited to restraining orders.

For the public, the SJC also announced a help line.  I can't vouch for how helpful it will be, but here is the language from the order:

 

  • The Trial Court will announce today the April 2, 2020 launch of a Help Line for non-emergency matters that the public can call to ask general questions about their civil and criminal cases and help callers navigate the court system. The Help Line will be staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and can be reached by calling 833-91COURT.

Three Common Reasons for Police Pull-Overs

Following an investigation into an alleged marijuana trafficker, Newport law enforcement arrested a person for delivering pounds of “high-grade” marijuana. The suspect was charged with marijuana possession with the intent to manufacture or sell, which is classified as a felony in Massachusetts.  

The arrest occurred because law enforcement learned the suspect was scheduled to deliver four pounds of marijuana to Newport in a Volkswagen Beetle. After positioning themselves at a highway ramp, law enforcement saw the vehicle approach the exit and fail to make a complete stop at a nearby stop sign. After performing a search of the vehicle, law enforcement found a gym bag containing four pounds of marijuana as well as a heat sealer. The suspect did not enter a plea and his bail was set at $3,000.

One of the best steps you can take to avoid ending up subject to a law enforcement pull-over is to avoid making some of the most violations that lead to these situations. The following reviews these violations in the hopes that you will be able to avoid being pulled over by Massachusetts law enforcement. 

Speeding

Most of us understand the motivation behind speeding. After all, the slower your vehicle travels, the longer it takes to reach your destination. Speeding results in accidents, jeopardizes the lives of motorists, and often leads to police pull-overs. 

Despite these risks, a growing number of people are speeding to reach their destinations. By slowing down while driving, you can also greatly reduce your chances of ending up subject to a police pull-over.

Hazardous Driving

This type of driving is dangerous and results in a countless number of police pullovers. Hazardous driving can include many driving patterns like failing to stop at a stop sign, running red lights, making illegal lane changes, performing illegal u-turns, and failing to yield.

There are simply some driving patterns that are never acceptable. You should do whatever possible to avoid operating your vehicle in such a manner. 

Sudden Lane Changes

Whether it is following too closely after changing lanes or improperly switching between them, changing lanes results in a large number of police stops. These driving patterns are also dangerous because they reduce a driver’s ability to avoid obstacles, which can arise suddenly on the road. 

It is common in Massachusetts for drivers to end up facing unexpected charges because they improperly change lanes or fail to give other motorists adequate room.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

No matter what steps you take, sometimes it is impossible to avoid being pulled over by a law enforcement officer. If you are facing charges due to a pull-over, you are likely wondering how to respond. One of the best steps that you can take is to speak with an experienced attorney. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney like Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.

How can You Defend Against Massachusetts Firearm Charges?

Law enforcement in Springfield recently arrested four men and seized an illegal firearm and cocaine after executing a search warrant at an apartment. The arrests occurred after detectives investigating the illegal possession of firearms were granted a warrant to search the apartment. A firearm was later found to have been tossed out of the window during the search. 

Law enforcement later recovered the firearm as well as 133 rounds of ammunition, an empty magazine, approximately five grams of cocaine, and $451 in cash. Various charges have since been brought against the four men including possession of a firearm without a license, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of ammunition without an FID card, and improper storage of a firearm. 

If you are a Massachusetts resident charged with a firearm offense, it is easy to feel uncertain or overwhelmed about what the future holds. One of the best first steps you can take is to speak with a skilled criminal defense lawyer.

Massachusetts Firearm Laws

There are various laws in Massachusetts dictating firearm usage. Some of the most common firearm offenses with which people in the state are charged include:

  • Knowingly possessing a loaded or unloaded firearm outside your home or place of business or without the required firearm license.

  • Possessing an illegal weapon like a machine gun or sawed-off shotgun. 

  • Carrying a shotgun or rifle on a public way.

  • Possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

  • Carrying a loaded firearm while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Illegally discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling without the owner’s permission. 

Even if you are not aware of the offense at the time of the violation, you can still end up facing serious penalties.

Responding to Firearm Related Offenses

If you are convicted of a firearm charge in Massachusetts, all is not lost. Instead, there are many ways to respond to these offenses. Some of the most common defenses used to respond to these charges include:

  • That you were someplace else at the time the firearm offense occurred

  • You did not own the firearm in question and it instead belonged to someone else

  • You had the necessary registration to carry the firearm in such a manner

  • You were subject to improper police tactics. This might include insufficient Miranda warnings, illegal searches or seizures, or the violation of other Constitutional rights

It can be difficult to determine which defenses can be raised in response to a firearm charge, which is why the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer often proves critical.

Speak with an Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a firearm-related offense in Massachusetts, you have options. A skilled criminal defense attorney can review your case and create a strong legal strategy to respond to these charges. Contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to discuss your charges during a free case evaluation.

All Courts Closed Until April 6th

The Supreme Judicial Court has just issued an order closing all courts in Massachusetts until April 6th.  There are exceptions for emergency matters but they are extremely narrow.  To get a sense of how restrictive the order is, look at the following

5. Except as provided herein, all trials, whether jury or bench, in both criminal and civil cases, scheduled to commence in Massachusetts state courts between the date of this Order and April 17, 2020, are hereby continued to a date no earlier than April 21, 2020, unless the trial is a bench trial in a civil matter and may be conducted otherwise than in-person by agreement of the parties and of the court.  Where a jury trial has commenced prior to the effective date of this Order, a mistrial shall be declared based on the manifest necessity arising from the pandemic.

You can see the order here.

Four Critical Things to do When Fighting Rape Charges

A Northborough man in his 60s who taught high school and college currently faces both sex trafficking and rape charges after turning himself in to law enforcement. This development is the result of a two-year trafficking investigation by state police. During the investigation, various women were targeted, manipulated, and exploited by the teacher.  

Rather than providing financial support to these women, the teacher required these women to perform sexual acts with him. Additionally, a search of the teacher’s home revealed several marijuana plants and restraints used to bind victims. 

Currently, the man is being held on a $15,000 bail and has been ordered to forfeit his passport and pilot’s license. The man was also ordered to not leave his residence except for legal or medical appointments. 

If you are charged with rape or any similar offense in Massachusetts, it can help greatly to follow some important strategies to avoid jeopardizing the outcome of your case.

Avoid Offering Information to Law Enforcement

Many people think that cooperating with law enforcement means going above and beyond every request that law enforcement makes. This, however, does not make things easier for the person accused of the offense. Instead, if law enforcement questions you, the best idea is to exercise your right to remain silent.  

If you are subject to any form of police questioning, you should make sure that you remain silent if your attorney is not present. While it might not be exactly what law enforcement wants, remaining silent during this time is much better than making a mistake that could jeopardize the outcome of your case.

Avoid Speaking to the Press

Many sex crimes receive a great deal of publicity. Speaking to the media, however, will only endanger the outcome of your case. This is because the media tends to present stories in favor of the victim. As a result, you should be aware that anything you say could be taken out of context and eventually used against you.

Gather Supporting Information From Witnesses

There is a large amount of evidence collected during the trial of sex crimes. You should take the opportunity to locate and speak to any witnesses who might be able to support your side. In some situations, witnesses can even establish that you were somewhere else at the time the offense occurred and could not possibly have been the person who committed the crime. This is referred to as an alibi. 

Collect Other Supporting Evidence

Besides gathering eyewitness testimony, you should also collect other evidence supporting your defense. This evidence can include text messages, video surveillance footage, receipts, or voicemail. The strongest evidence shows that either someone else committed the offense or that you were not at the scene at the time of the offense. 

Contact a Skilled Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney

Being charged with a sexual offense can result in serious consequences including large fines and jail time. If you need the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney during this difficult time, do not hesitate to contact attorney Edward R. Molari.

What can Law Enforcement do if They Smell Marijuana?

A New York resident was recently arrested in Boston’s South Station after law enforcement found approximately 10 pounds of marijuana stuffed inside the man’s travel bag. Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority officers were alerted after a bus terminal worker reported a strong marijuana odor emanating from a piece of baggage. 

After performing an investigation, law enforcement found approximately 10 pounds of marijuana as well as a scale inside of the bag. The alleged owner of the marijuana was later arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. 

While the man in this case ended up facing criminal charges based only on the odor of marijuana, there are other situations in which law enforcement cannot use the mere scent of marijuana alone to pursue an arrest. This article reviews some important Massachusetts laws that you should know regarding marijuana smells and criminal offenses.

Vehicle Stops Based on the Smell of Marijuana

For years, courts held that the smell of marijuana gave law enforcement probable cause to perform a vehicle stop. In the 2015 case of Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, the Massachusetts Supreme Court held that law enforcement officers cannot stop a vehicle when they only have reasonable suspicion that a civil infraction for a small amount of marijuana has occurred. 

This means that if law enforcement only smells the odor of burnt marijuana emanating from your vehicle, they still need probable cause demonstrating that you are committing a criminal offense. Because marijuana possession of a small amount is not a criminal offense, law enforcement cannot use the smell of marijuana to form probable cause that a person has committed any other type of crime. The reasoning behind the court’s decision was that the odor of marijuana can be carried on a person’s clothing or might be from someone else. 

Vehicle Searches Due to the Smell of Marijuana

In the same way that law enforcement in Massachusetts cannot stop your vehicle based on only the smell of marijuana, they also cannot search your vehicle as the result of the smell of marijuana. In the 2014 case of Commonwealth v. Overmeyer, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that law enforcement can only search a vehicle if the police have probable cause that your vehicle contains evidence of a criminal offense. 

The odor of burnt marijuana does not establish probable cause that a criminal offense has been committed because an odor does not inform law enforcement about the amount of marijuana that is in a vehicle. 

What This Means for Massachusetts Drivers

It is common for law enforcement to claim that they smell marijuana. Combined with other factors, Massachusetts police often use these factors to justify an arrest. There have even been cases of law enforcement lying about the smell of marijuana so they can continue a search. This means that if law enforcement claims to smell marijuana coming from you or your vehicle, you are at greater risk of ending up in a difficult situation. 

Law enforcement, however, cannot use the smell of marijuana whether burnt or unburnt as the only factor to stop your vehicle or perform a vehicle search. Some factors that can lead to searches or stops if paired with the smell of marijuana include erratic driving, failure to use a turn signal, following too close, and speeding. 

Speak with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Being convicted of a marijuana-related offense can result in a person facing large fines, jail time, and many other complications. As a result, if you find yourself in such a situation, you should not hesitate to speak with a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation. 

Three Quick Facts About Malicious Destruction in Massachusetts

Two men in downtown Boston were recently caught and arrested for attempting to break into an ATM. The arrest occurred after Boston law enforcement received an ATM alarm call near Broad Street. On arrival, law enforcement began inspecting the ATM for damage. 

As law enforcement inspected the machine, they heard sounds behind it, so they shined flashlights through the ATM’s glass exterior and into the building’s vestibule. This revealed two men with crowbars who were attempting to break into the machine through its back. Consequently, the officers drew their guns, ordered the suspects to drop their tools, and commanded the suspects to get on the ground. 

After the two suspects complied, they were placed under arrest. The two men were later charged with breaking and entering as well as malicious destruction of property. Because malicious destruction of property can result in some serious penalties, the following reviews some of the important details you should understand about this offense in Massachusetts. Combined with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, these details can better prepare you for what lies ahead. 

What Constitutes Malicious Destruction?

Massachusetts defines malicious destruction as occurring whenever a person willfully either destroys or injures another person’s property. While vandalism is the most common type of malicious destruction, the offense can also include acts like setting someone else’s property on fire or breaking someone else’s window. As in the previous examples, this offense can also include destroying a bank’s ATMs.

There are Two Types of Malicious Destruction Charges

There are two types of malicious destruction charges in Massachusetts. These offenses are separated both based on the intent of the party involved as well as the amount of damages caused by the offense. If the offense involves greater than $250 in damages, a person can end up facing a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of $3,000. If the offense is less than this amount, a person will end up facing a maximum of two and a half months in jail and approximately three times the cost of the damage in fines.

There are Several Available Defenses

Two defenses are commonly raised in response to malicious destruction charges. You will either establish that the items destroyed were actually less than $250 in value or that you did not have the required mental state at the time of the offense. 

To establish the requisite mental intent, you must establish that you did not consciously disregard someone else’s safety. You might also establish that you were not the person who actually destroyed the property or that you had permission to destroy the property from the property’s owner.

Speak with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been charged with malicious destruction of property, a skilled criminal defense attorney like Edward R. Molari will review your case and help you create a strong defense strategy. Contact attorney Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation. 

A Quick Guide to Avoiding a Charge of Resisting Arrest

A juvenile in Roxbury is currently facing weapon charges after he was arrested with a loaded weapon. Law enforcement officers responding to an apartment building call saw the suspect moving among a group of teenagers, who were gathered in a hallway. While officers gathered the names of the teenagers in the group, the suspect attempted to conceal his weapon on the left side of his upper body. Later, law enforcement patted down the suspect and felt a firearm in the juvenile’s inner jacket pocket. 

After the juvenile attempted to escape, he underwent a violent struggle with law enforcement. This led to law enforcement confiscating a loaded handgun, which bore a defaced serial number. The juvenile was also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, carrying a loaded firearm, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, and resisting arrest.

It is rarely the case that a person is charged with just resisting arrest. Instead, this charge is often added when a person is charged with another offense. This offense, however, results in additional penalties. To help you prepare for the various complications that can result from this charge, the following reviews some important steps to avoid being charged with resisting arrest.

Understand What Resisting Arrest Includes

In Massachusetts, the charge of resisting arrest is broad. A person can be charged with arresting arrest if that individual prevents a law enforcement officer from arresting him or her, or another individual. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes a surprised or panicked reaction to being arrested can lead to this charge.

Know the Penalties

A person charged with resisting arrest can end up facing some serious penalties. These penalties include imprisonment of up to two and a half years and/or a fine of $500. Given the serious nature of these penalties, it is often in your best interest to avoid being charged with the offense at all. 

Avoid a Resisting Arrest Charge

If law enforcement arrests you, it is critical to remain calm. It is also important to avoid running or hiding from the police. If you are asked for your identification during this process, you must avoid giving either a fake ID or false identification. You do have a right, however, for the law enforcement officer to reveal their identity. You also have the right to question on what grounds the law enforcement officer is arresting you.

You Have Defenses

Unless a witness is present, it can be difficult to establish what happened during your arrest. Consequently, there are several strategies that you can use to defend against resisting arrest charges, which include:

  • That the arrest was unlawful

  • That law enforcement was using excessive force and you were defending yourself

  • That you did not actually resist the arrest

  • That law enforcement failed to provide adequate identification 

Speak with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with resisting arrest in Massachusetts, an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney can help. Contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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