Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Bomb Threats are No Laughing Matter

We have all heard of high school students who did not wish to take their final exams and laughingly called in bomb threats at their schools to prevent the tests from taking place. A bomb threat is no laughing matter. The perpetrator of a bomb threat will face major legal problems, and the outcome can be severe without the help and advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Recently, the FBI investigated a bomb threat directed toward 12 Massachusetts schools. The threats were made over the phone and affected schools in 15 communities, including Boston. High school students are not the only ones trying to avoid taking a final exam by pulling this prank. A Harvard University student allegedly sent an email that stated bombs were placed throughout the Cambridge campus. Later, the FBI arrested him for the crime. According to a federal bomb threat statute, a federal agent can charge any person who calls or emails a bomb threat. The punishment can be up to 10 years in prison.

Whether a high school or college student, individuals who make bomb threats can face serious trouble. In some cases, a conviction for making a school bomb threat can get a student's driver’s license revoked or get him or her expelled from school. Their parents can be liable for the student's actions in court, as well. Individuals under 18 can be tried as adults in some cases.

Making a bomb threat in Massachusetts can have harsh consequences. A conviction is punishable by up to 20-years in prison and may include a fine of up to $50,000. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269, Section 14 states:

"(c) Whoever willfully communicates or causes to be communicated such a threat thereby causing either the evacuation or serious disruption of a school, school related event, school transportation, or a dwelling, building, place of assembly, facility or public transport, or an aircraft, ship or common carrier, or willfully communicates or causes serious public inconvenience or alarm, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than 3 years nor more than 20 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not less than 6 months nor more than 21/2 years, or by fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $50,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment. (d) The court shall, after conviction, conduct a hearing to ascertain the extent of costs incurred, damages and financial loss suffered by an individual, public or private entity and the amount of property damage caused as a result of the defendant's crime. A person found guilty of violating this section shall, in all cases, in addition to any other punishment, be ordered to make restitution to the individual, public or private entity for any costs incurred, damages and financial loss sustained as a result of the commission of the crime. Restitution shall be imposed in addition to incarceration or fine, and not in lieu thereof, however, the court shall consider the defendant's present and future ability to pay in its determinations regarding a fine. In determining the amount, time and method of payment of restitution, the court shall consider the financial resources of the defendant and the burden restitution will impose on the defendant."

If you or your child is accused of making a bomb threat, the consequences may be serious and life-changing. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you with legal advice that can help your case. He can explain your options and provide personalized legal services in your bomb threat case. Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.

The Consequences of Underage Drinking

Most parents hand over the car keys to their sixteen year old son or daughter with love, pride, and a little anxiety. Every parent wants their child to be a responsible driver and respect the rules of the road like a mature person. Unfortunately, that may not be the case for all teenagers reaching the legal driving age to operate an automobile. Many young drivers find themselves involved in accidents and driving offenses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 2,163 teenagers in 2013 were killed and nearly 243,250 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to motor vehicle crashes. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers and nearly a quarter of those accidents involve an underage drinking driver.

Underage Drinking and the Law

All states prohibit individuals from driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%. It is considered a crime. The rules are usually more severe for people under 21 years old. In most states, any motorists under the age of 21 operating an automobile with a BAC level of .02% or higher can be cited for a DUI (Driving under the influence of alcohol). Some states are stricter with a zero-tolerance for underage drinkers. A BAC over 0% will automatically become a DUI. In the state of Massachusetts the legal drinking age is 21.

In Massachusetts, drivers under 21 account for less that 10% of all drivers, however research reveals these young drivers account for 12% of DUI related deaths in the commonwealth. As a result, the standards and penalties for underage drinkers in Massachusetts may be more severe. In addition to driving under the influence, an underage drinker may be charged with moving and vehicle violations, distributing alcohol to other minors, soliciting alcohol, and possessing a fake ID.

The Warning Signs of Underage Drinking

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, parents should look for any warning sign that may reveal underage drinking. The organization cites the following as signs to look for in your child's behavior.

  • Alcohol is missing from bottles or cans in your home

  • Breath mints or mouthwash—these may be an attempt to mask the odor of alcohol

  • More sluggish and passive than usual; does not care as much about former interests or appearance

  • Is unusually aggressive or rebellious

  • Hangs around with different friends and is more secretive than usual

  • Skipping school

  • Grades are dropping

  • Borrowing money more

  • Alcohol hidden in your teen’s backpack, car, or room

  • Drunk and intoxicated behavior: your teen stumbles or moves awkwardly, has slurred speech and a dull, unfocused look or bloodshot eyes

Legal Help and Action

If your underage son or daughter is facing OUI/DUI charges, the consequences may be serious and life-changing. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you and your family with legal advice that can help your teenager regain their life and driving record. He can explain your rights and provide personalized legal services in your OUI/DUI case.  Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.

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The Pitfalls of Fake IDs & Serving Minors

A college student thinking about creating a fake ID to purchase alcohol at the local bar or nightclub should think twice if he or she lived in Boston or any other city in Massachusetts. The internet and technological innovations have made it much easier to create an older-looking twin, but the legal consequences of getting caught are complex. Misrepresenting your age or identity can lead to harsh penalties and punishment.

Serving Minors with Fake IDs

Using a fake ID is a criminal offense under Massachusetts law. Punishment for breaking the law may include up to three months in jail, a one-year suspension of your driver's license, and a fee. Is it really worth it? Many underage drinkers think it is. Fake IDs have been a part our nation's teen culture since a national minimum drinking age of 21 was established in the United States in 1984. Many see fake IDs as rites of passage, while others see them as a threat to national security. It is a crime and a simple fake ID can turn into a criminal record for many underage drinkers who try to bypass the law. In many cities, bars or nightclubs can confiscate fake IDs and turn them over to local law enforcement.

In Massachusetts, under M.G.L. c. 138, § 34  a person can be convicted of providing alcohol to a minor, if he or she intended to serve the underage drinker or had knowledge the person was being served alcohol. A person can be convicted if he or she knowingly supplies a person under 21 years of age, except for their own children or grandchildren, with alcohol on his or her property or premises. Although the person may not be the owner of the property, he or she still can be charged with this crime when entrusted with a control of the property. Punishment for providing alcohol to a minor may include fines and imprisonment for up to one year.

Long-term Effects of Using Fake IDs

Maryland School of Public Health conducted a recent study that suggests there may be a link between using fake identifications and the development of alcohol use disorders in college students. Fake IDs give students more opportunities to drink.

Fake ID users are more likely to engage in high-risk drinking and more at risk of developing alcohol-related problems. The study finds there may be a correlation between buying alcohol with Fake IDs and long-term alcohol abuse. The study followed 529 females and 486 males. The participants in the study admitted drinking alcohol at least once by their freshmen year of college.

Legal Counsel for Fake ID Users

Individuals who are caught using fake IDs should seek legal strategies to reduce their penalties. It is important to explore all legal options when you are facing criminal charges. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you with the correct solutions and actions you need to take in your case. He explains your rights and provides personalized legal services to every client. You can contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.

Potential End of License Suspension for Drug Offenses

 

Recently, legislative activity has been ongoing within the Massachusetts State Senate and House. This legislation could lead to a change in the law regarding the potential consequences for an individual convicted of a drug offense. However, to this point, the Senate and House have disagreed as to what those consequences should be.

Importance of the Bill

The Massachusetts Senate originally passed a bill on September 24, 2015, with the house passing an amended version on January 6, 2016. However, the Senate did not like those changes. As a result, the Senate amended the bill again and readopted its original version. Specifically, the amendments retain provisions that eliminate a subsection of the law that require a person’s driver’s license to be suspended if that person is convicted of a drug offense. The amendments also instruct the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to reinstate the license or the right to operate a motor vehicle of anyone who has already had their license suspended under the current law. The change in the law would keep records related to the suspension and the underlying offense hidden from public access.

Finally, the amendments remove language the House placed in the bill that would require license suspension for five years if a person is convicted or adjudicated delinquent for drug trafficking under the Massachusetts laws. Additionally, House language was also removed that would have allowed a judge to determine whether a person under 18 years of age should be prohibited from acquiring a license for a period (but not past his or her 21st birthday) if convicted or adjudicated delinquent for a violation under the Massachusetts Controlled Substances Act.

The Senate and House also disagree as to what the effective date of the law (if passed) should be for people who had their license suspended in connection with a drug offense. The House would like the effective date to be July 1, 2016. However, the amendment changed the effective date back to the Senate’s original intent of 60 days after the bill’s enactment.

Next Steps

The bill now returns to the House where it will either be agreed to or not. If the bill is not agreed to by the House, a conference committee will be appointed in both the Senate and the House. The purpose of these committees will be to determine which sections of both versions of the bill will ultimately prevail. Once a final bill is completed, it will be sent to the Governor for signature and final approval.

Criminal Defense Help

While this bill could reduce some of the penalties for a drug offense, individuals will still face severe punishment for these crimes. As a result, if you have been charged with a drug offense, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. For more information, speak with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari today. Call our office at 617-942-1532 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Properly Storing Firearms

If you are interested in purchasing a firearm (or already have one), it is important to understand how to properly store them. Properly storing firearms is not only a safety issue, it is also required by law. Violations of these laws can lead to significant consequences, even if no injury results.

Safe Storage

It is important to safely store firearms to help prevent another person from discovering them and potentially hurting themselves or another person. This is a particular risk if there are children who visit or live in the home. Properly storing firearms helps prevent against theft. Not only does theft of a firearm cause loss for the owner, it can also lead to the owner being held responsible in some manner if the firearm is then used in some illegal manner.

Under Massachusetts law, individuals must keep their firearms in a secured, locked container or equip them with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device. Firearms must be made inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized users. Mechanical locks include trigger locks or cable locks. These devices encase the trigger assembly to prevent the weapon from being fired. But, while they are intended to prevent the weapon from being fired, the firearm should still be stored unloaded.

Using a mechanical lock can satisfy the law in Massachusetts for properly storing a firearm, but they are not the ideal option. To begin with, mechanical locks do not help in protecting against the theft of the firearm. Further, they are not the safest way to store firearms. Providing more safety are locking storage containers. There are many different kinds of locking containers, ranging from a small pistol safe to very large gun vaults. Gun vaults can be bolted to the floor, are fireproof, and have the ability to store a wide number and types of firearms. Similar to using mechanical locks, firearms should be stored unloaded, even when placed in locking containers.

Penalties for Violations

The penalties for violating the firearms storage laws may result in a fine, jail time, and ineligibility for a firearms license. For example, a violation involving a firearm not considered large-capacity will lead to a fine of between $1,000 and $7,500. The individual may be sentenced to a prison term of up to one and a half years. If the violation occurred in a place where a person under 18 years of age who does not possess a valid firearms identification card issued under Massachusetts law could have accessed the firearm, the penalties include a fine of between $2,500 and $15,000, with a possible prison sentence of between one and a half and 12 years. The penalties for all storage violations are more severe if the firearm is considered a large-capacity weapon.

Criminal Defense Help

The penalties for violating firearms laws are often quite severe. If you have been accused of a firearms violation, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office at 617-942-1532. We look forward to discussing how we can help you.

Batterer Intervention Programs

Domestic violence awareness has increased significantly over the past couple of decades. As a result, ideas on how to prevent it have been introduced. For example, individuals who are sentenced in relation to a domestic violence incident in Massachusetts are now referred to special programs called Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs). These programs are intended to increase victim’s safety by providing educational groups to help batterers stop their abusive behavior. The following provides a brief overview of what to expect if you are ordered to attend a BIP.

What are BIPs?

Certified BIPs operate in every county in Massachusetts. Under Massachusetts law, when a defendant violates an order not to abuse or have any contact with the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s child or violates a protection order, the individual must be referred to a BIP, unless the judge finds it to be unnecessary or the program indicates that the defendant is not suitable for intervention. If the defendant is ordered to a BIP under a suspended license and fails to attend the program, the original sentence will be re-imposed.

BIPs involve discussion of the damaging effects that domestic violence has on victims and children who witness it. Programs also teach batterers how to use non-abusive action in interacting with partners and children. Massachusetts law specifically states that anger management and substance abuse treatment are not the same as BIPs and cannot be substituted for them. However, if the defendant has a substance abuse problem, courts do have the power to order treatment for that issue, in addition to referring the individual to a BIP.  

The program will communicate with the partner of a participant regarding the participant’s attendance and completion of the BIP. BIPs also inform the probation department of the participant’s compliance with program attendance. The partner of a program participant will be informed of any risks or threats of abuse indicated by the abusive partner. This sharing of information is a condition of participation in the program.                                   

 Individual BIPs establish their own fee schedules in accordance with Massachusetts Guidelines. BIPs may develop a deferred payment schedule or partial payment plans for individuals who are unable to pay the entire cost of the program upfront. Programs must make provision for indigent clients, which means low-income batterers may potentially attend for free or for a nominal amount. Additionally, free services are also provided for adolescent male batterers.

Information for certified BIPs can be found at the Massachusetts’ Health and Human Services website. The page provides links to program websites and other contact information, as well as what languages are served and whether adolescent services are offered by each program.

Defending Your Rights

If you have been accused of committing domestic violence, you face the potential for significant penalties. While domestic violence is a serious allegation, you still have rights that must be protected. It is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To setup a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office at 617-942-1532. We look forward to hearing from you.

Malicious Destruction of Property and Vandalism

 

Two similar, but different offenses exist under Massachusetts law. The differences between malicious destruction of property and vandalism are important because the penalties for each can be significantly different. Unfortunately, the laws related to these offenses are somewhat vague, which can lead to prosecutors needlessly charging individuals for a more significant crime.

How are the Charges Different?

Under Massachusetts law, defacement or vandalism of property occurs when there is an intentional, willful, and malicious painting, marking, etching, or other defacing or destruction of the real or personal property of another. This type of property includes almost anything, including fences, buildings, signs, rocks, and monuments. This offense is considered a felony.

An individual convicted of vandalism faces a state prison sentence of up to three years or a house of correction sentence of up to two years. In addition, the individual may be fined up to $1,500 or three times the value of the property involved, whichever amount is greater. The individual will also be ordered to pay to fix the property involved. Convictions of vandalism also will lead to a driver’s license suspension of one year. If the person is under the age of 16, one year is added to the minimum eligible age to drive.

The fine is doubled if the property was a war or veterans’ memorial, monument, or gravestone. The individual will also be required to complete at least 500 hours of community service that is approved by the court. There is also special protection given to certain other property, like churches, synagogues, schools, and places used for burying the deceased.

A similar offense is the malicious destruction of property, which is a felony if the value of the property is greater than $250. This offense occurs when an individual destroys or injures the personal property, house, or building of another. The punishment is a potential 10-year prison sentence and a fine of either $3,000 or three times the value of the property, whichever is greater. However, if the property involved is valued at less than $250, the offense is a misdemeanor. In that case, the punishment is either a fine of three times the value of the property or imprisonment for up to two and a half months.

The issue with these two offenses is that the definitions of what constitutes each are similar. This creates the potential for a charge of defacement or vandalism when the action of the defendant is really more appropriately charged as malicious destruction of property. If the property involved was valued at less than $250, the differences between the charges is significant.

Criminal Defense Help

If you have been charged with either of the above offenses, you face the potential for serious penalties As a result, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. Call our office at 617-942-1532 to schedule a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari. We look forward to discussing how we can help you.

 

Gun Court

The Suffolk County Firearms Priority Disposition Session (often referred to as Gun Court) was created in 2006 as a way to eliminate the backlog of cases and expedite the process of prosecuting cases related to firearms. In addition, proponents of Gun Court argue that it has helped in the reduction of gun violence.

Expedited Process

The idea to develop a streamlined process for prosecuting defendants arrested on gun charges (as well as other charges that came out of the same incident) was developed by Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley. Prior to the development of Gun Court, gun cases took about one year (and often longer) to resolve.

Gun Court involves a special set of court proceedings that address illegal or unlicensed firearms possession cases. Defendants are arraigned in the appropriate district court, but then their case is immediately transferred to the Central Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department, where Gun Court is held. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office then expedites the processing of ballistics or other forensic evidence.

The goal of this is to streamline the process related to the prosecution of gun possession charges (as well as any charges arising out of the same incident). Initially, the goal was to complete the entire process (from arraignment to disposition of the case) within 180 days. By doing so, the Gun Court hoped to decrease the incidents of gun violence. Prior to the inception of Gun Court, cases took long periods of time and, once bail was posted, individuals arrested for gun charges were back on the street. This leads to additional incidents related to gun violence.

These specialized firearm sessions are held at the Lynn District Court. Presently, the goal is to hold pretrial hearings within 45 days of arraignment and for the case to be resolved within 120 days. The ability to hold these sessions is the result of a collaborative effort between the District Attorney, Trial Court, and Boston Police Department.

Reported Success

According to a report that studied Gun Court from 2006 to 2009, the average number of days for prosecuting cases was 158. The conviction rate (which includes all charges arising out of the same gun-related incident) is around 85% In the development of Gun Court, a Gun Prosecution Task Force was formed, which obtained the first conviction related to firearms based in part on thermal imaging technology.

The report also indicated that gun-related violence had declined over the period studied. Gun Court was cited as being at least partially responsible, though the following factors also contributed to the decline:

  • More intelligent and focused work by the police;

  • Legislation enabling law enforcement efforts; and

  • Community-based anti-violence efforts.

Defend Your Rights

 

Charges related to firearms are serious and carry with them significant penalties. As the above indicates, these charges are aggressively pursued by prosecutors. If you have been charged with a firearms offense, is it important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To set up a free case evaluation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office at 617-942-1532.

Robbery

Robbery is a special form of theft. It is common for someone to state that they were “robbed” when it may not entirely be an accurate description in the eyes of the law. It is important to determine whether an individual’s action is, in fact, robbery because it is a serious offense with the potential for significant punishment.

Defining Robbery

The common law definition of robbery is larceny from a person through the use of force. Larceny is the illegal taking of property from another person. Therefore, larceny is a lesser offense than robbery (because there is a lack of force involved). “From a person” is defined as being both from a person who is in actual, physical possession of property and from a person who has control over property, but does not physically possess it. An example of a person with control, but not physical possession, is a store clerk who is forced to relinquish the money in the cash register.

The important element is force. Without force, the offense is not robbery. “By force” is defined as the use of violence, the threat of violence, or the use of intimidation. It is important to note that physical contact does not need to occur. If actual force is used, it does not need to be shown that the victim had any fear. Additionally, the opposite is true: if a victim has fear, no actual force is required.

An individual faces up to ten years in prison for assaulting, without a dangerous weapon, another person with the intent to rob or steal from that person. A more serious offense, known as armed robbery, occurs when an individual assaults and robs another person while in the possession of a dangerous weapon. This also includes stealing and taking money or other property from another person when that offense is considered larceny. The penalties for robbery may be a prison term of any length or a life term. If the accused person was wearing a mask or otherwise was disguised during the robbery, there is a five-year minimum sentence. There is also a minimum five-year sentence if the accused person had a firearm, shotgun, rifle, machine gun, or assault weapon.

Massachusetts has a law specifically designed to more severely punish individuals who commit robbery on people 60 years of age and older. An individual who commits robbery without a dangerous weapon, but through the use of force and violence, or by assault on a person over 60 years old faces a prison term of many years, including the potential for a life sentence.

Protect Your Rights

 

If you have been charged with robbery, you face serious consequences, but it does not mean that you cannot defend yourself. To schedule a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office a 617-942-1532. We look forward to hearing from you and discussing how we can help.

BB Guns Not Considered Firearms

BB guns have become increasingly popular in the commission of crimes. This is largely due to the fact that many BB guns resemble real guns and are easier to obtain. This trend may continue to grow as a result of a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision which held that a BB gun is not considered a firearm.

Firearms and BB Guns

In the case of Commonwealth v. Garrett, the defendant was convicted of armed robbery with a firearm while masked. The defendant had committed robberies of various stores while using a BB gun. He appealed the conviction, arguing that a BB gun was not a firearm and the Supreme Judicial court agreed. This was important because there is less serious punishment due to the ruling that the defendant was not carrying a firearm.

The court noted that the armed robbery statute did not contain a definition of firearm. As a result of this, the court examined all of the laws related to firearms and determined that regulation of BB guns has been entirely different than that of firearms. For example, Massachusetts has a separate law aimed mainly at addressing the issue of minors misusing BB guns.

Additionally, the court discussed the law prohibiting an individual from possessing a firearm near a school. The statute specifically defines firearm, which the court, in a previous decision, held included BB guns, even though they were not expressly mentioned. The court noted that the Legislature did not include such a definition for the sentencing enhancement statute related to armed robbery. Therefore, there was no intent to bring BB guns within the firearm definition for the offense of armed robbery.

The Massachusetts Gun Control Act of 1998 did not mention BB guns and discussed airguns only once, in relation to a requirement to report injuries. This was also an indication to the court that the Legislature intended regulation of firearms and BB guns to be separate from each other. Finally, the court reasoned that treating BB guns like firearms would produce unintended results, such as:

  • Only licensed dealers would be able to sell BB guns;

  • The purchase of a BB gun would require a mandatory background check; and

  • All BB guns would need to have serial identification numbers on them.

The result of this ruling is that it will be left to the Legislature to enact a law that specifically brings BB guns within the definition of firearms. The court’s explanation of its ruling was, in essence, that the Legislature has not indicated an intention that BB guns and firearms be treated the same. However, with how similar some BB guns look to real guns and the increased use of them in connection with criminal activity, it is likely that this issue will be addressed by the Legislature.

Criminal Defense

If you have been accused of violating a law related to firearms, you face the potential for serious consequences. As a result, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office at 617-942-1532. We look forward to hearing from you.

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