Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

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.

Intent to Distribute Drugs

 

Individuals who are caught with illegal drugs may be accused of possession with intent to distribute. If convicted of this offense, the individual faces penalties more severe than if he or she were convicted for mere possession. As a result, determining the reason an individual possessed illegal drugs is critical when drug possession is alleged.

What is Intent to Distribute?

Under Massachusetts law, distribution is simply defined as delivering a controlled substance. The definition specifically excludes the acts of administering or dispensing. A controlled substance is a drug or substance that is contained within the schedule or class list as defined by Massachusetts law. Drugs are placed into different classes in order to determine how severe the punishments associated with them are.

It is important to note that there is not a threshold amount of drugs that a person must have before they are guilty of possession with intent to distribute. However, possessing very large quantities does give an indication that the possession is not merely for personal use. As a result, the quantity of drugs possessed is a factor to be considered, along with several others, including, but not limited to:

  • How the drugs are packaged

  • The number of individual packages; or

  • The presence of small bags, twist ties, a scale, or other materials that indicate the drugs will be individually packaged.

Proving intent to distribute can be difficult because the person accused of the offense may not have done anything other than have drugs with them when stopped by the police.

Penalties

There are five classes of drugs, ranging from Class E to Class A. Intent to distribute a drug in Class E is punishable by a jail sentence of up to nine months and/or a fine of between $250 and $2,500. An example of a Class E drug is a compound with limited quantities of codeine. The most severely punished drugs are found in Class A, which, for example, includes heroin. The punishment for intent to distribute includes up to two and a half years in jail, up to ten years in state prison, and/or a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000.

It is worth discussing marijuana because of its unique treatment in Massachusetts. Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana is no longer considered a criminal offense. Instead, a person over 18 years of age who is caught with such a quantity only has to pay a $100 fine. However, if an individual has more than one ounce, the offense is more serious, particularly if he or she is charged with possession with intent to distribute. Marijuana is considered a Class D substance, so near the bottom of the drug classes. But, possession with intent to distribute still carries serious penalties, including a jail sentence of up to two years and/or a fine of not less than $500, up to a maximum of $5,000.

Defend Your Rights

All drug possession charges are serious and should be met with the aid of an experienced attorney. To schedule a free case evaluation with Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari, call our office today at 617-942-1532.

Operating Under the Influence

If we were asked what a crime is, most of us would probably say something like burglary or battery. But, another offense is also considered a crime and carries with it very serious consequences: Operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI). Individuals arrested for OUI face stiff costs and significant penalties.

Basics of OUI

Under Massachusetts law, it is illegal for an individual to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. In addition, it is against the law to drive while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or other narcotic drugs. It is important to keep in mind that, even if an individual is below the legal limit to drive, it is always best to use a designated driver or other form of transportation. For an individual under the age of 21, the maximum BAC level is 0.02%, which is considered a zero-tolerance level. For commercial drivers, the maximum level is 0.04%.

An individual convicted of OUI will be assessed a fine of not less than $500, up to $5,000. Additionally, the individual may face a jail sentence of up to two and a half years.  It is within the court’s discretion to decide whether the sentence can be served on weekends, evenings, or holidays. For example, the judge can allow a person to work during the weekday and serve his or her jail sentence on the weekend.

In addition to the above punishments, an individual may also have his or her driver’s license suspended for one year. However, an ignition interlock device (IID) is not required for a first offense in Massachusetts. An IID is a mechanism attached to a vehicle to prevent the car from starting if the person exhales into it and the breath-alcohol concentration analyzed is too high.

Importantly, Massachusetts is an implied consent state, which means a refusal to submit to a chemical test will result in a fine and automatic license suspension (for a first offense, this period is 180 days). In other words, by driving, an individual has indicated that he or she will submit to a test if requested to take one by a police officer.

According to Massachusetts law, an OUI that results in the serious bodily injury of another person is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and a jail term of not less than six months, with a maximum of two and a half years. Alternatively, a convicted individual can be sentenced to a state prison term of not less than two and a half years, up to ten years, with the same $5,000 maximum fine. Serious bodily injury is an injury that causes the chance of death to be substantial. Alternatively, it also occurs if the injury causes total disability or for a bodily function to be lost for a substantial period of time.

Protecting Your Rights

If you have been arrested for suspicion of OUI, you still have a right to defend yourself. For more information, contact Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari today. To schedule a free consultation, call our office at 617-942-1532.

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Marshfield Bank Hack Highlights Cybercrime Enforcement

The growth of Internet-based commerce and banking has created a new type of criminal activity, often referred to as “cybercrime.” These crimes are often financially motivated and involve property and theft offenses, but can also involve harassment, conspiring to commit crimes with others, offenses related to child pornography, sex offenses, and others. As these crimes have become more prevalent in recent years, enforcement efforts have increased, often resulting in excessive or unsubstantiated allegations against people who are innocent of any wrongdoing.

A recent incident in the Boston suburb of Marshfield, Massachusetts highlights the way that cybercrime can affect a community and the significant efforts undertaken by law enforcement to combat it. According to a report published at Myfoxboston.com, Rockland Trust Bank, which holds the town’s bank account, realized that there was $30,000 missing from the account and alerted the town. Reports indicate that bank officials and law enforcement are unclear as to how the incident happened, but that it may have been the result of a phishing scam in which an individual with access to the account was tricked into providing login credentials

Cybercrime Can Result in Significant Legal Penalties


As computer-related crimes become more and more prevalent, law enforcement will develop new techniques to monitor and catch people attempting to perpetrate them. Unfortunately, this type of enforcement effort can also ensnare people who are innocent of any wrongdoing but happened to simply click the wrong link at the wrong time or engaged in a hypothetical conversation in a forum.

These types of crimes have the potential to result in serious legal penalties, many of which can affect a person for years. For this reason, it is extremely important for anyone accused of a crime related to the use of a computer or the Internet to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Some of the consequences associated with a conviction could include the following:

  • Probation

  • Fines

  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender

  • Jail time

Fortunately for people who are accused of these kinds of crimes, there are several defenses that could potentially be raised. The exact defenses that are available in your case, if any, will depend largely on the specific circumstances of your case. For this reason, it is critical to meet with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your case is brought to the best outcome possible.

Contact a Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Today

People who have been accused of financially-motivated crimes involving the Internet should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. A conviction could have a significant impact on the quality of your life and may even result in the loss of your freedom. Boston criminal defense lawyer Edward R. Molari is committed to protecting the legal rights of people accused of a variety of crimes, including DUI, violent crimes, property and theft offenses, and crimes involving weapons. To schedule a consultation with Mr. Molari, call our office today at 617-942-1532.

Traffic Offenses can Lead to Serious Legal Problems

Many people who are issued traffic citations are unsure of whether they need to retain an attorney who practices in the area of criminal defense. After all, most traffic tickets are civil infractions rather than criminal violations, meaning that the potential penalties that a court may impose are much less severe. It is important for motorists to understand, however, that even minor traffic tickets can have serious financial repercussions, and accumulating several of them can even jeopardize your right to drive. In addition, more serious violations such as Operating Under the Influence can result in a jail sentence. For this reason, it is extremely important for anyone that has been accused of a traffic violation to talk to an attorney as soon as possible about the options.

An Attorney can Help


It may be very tempting for anyone who has received a traffic citation to simply pay the fine by mail and move on with his or her life. Unfortunately, doing so is an admission of guilt, which may result in many unintended consequences down the road. Massachusetts uses a Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP) in which drivers who accumulate points pay higher insurance premiums than those that demonstrate safe driving by not accumulating points. An attorney can often negotiate a traffic offense in such a way as to keep points from being added to your license.

One of the most common ways that traffic offenses can result in more significant legal problems is when people simply fail to pay a fine by the required date (which we have already determined is not the best course of action) or if they fail to show up to a required court date. When this occurs, a court may issue a warrant for their arrest due to their failure to appear. As a result, they may be facing arrest if they are pulled over or if law enforcement happens to process their name during an encounter for any other reason. Arrest is never a pleasant experience and can often result in significant problems at school or at work. Fortunately, when you retain an attorney to represent you regarding a traffic citation, your attorney will ensure that all deadlines are met. In addition, your lawyer can often obtain leeway with the court in terms of getting you more time to pay any fines or engage in any tasks that may be relevant to the disposition of your case.

Contact a Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer

The best way of avoiding having relatively minor traffic offenses turning into serious legal problems is to call an attorney immediately after you receive a citation. By doing so, you can rest assured that your traffic offense case will be handled in a timely manner and with as little long-term consequence as possible. Boston criminal defense attorney Edward R. Molari is committed to helping people who are accused of traffic offenses bring their case the most favorable resolution possible. To schedule a free consultation with Mr. Molari, call our office today at 617-942-1532.

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