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Almost everyone knows the general meaning of probation, but unless you or someone you know has been previously placed on probation by a court, or unless you’re a Massachusetts probation violation lawyer, most people don’t know the details.  This post will address the details of Massachusetts criminal probation issues, and I’ll publish it in three parts – Part One today.

WHAT IS PROBATION?

Since almost everyone knows this answer, not much is needed here:  Probation consists of terms and conditions that a court imposes on a criminal defendant who has been convicted of, or who has admitted to, some type of criminal offense.   Probation can also be imposed in the absence of a guilty finding, or before any trial, if the defendant consents.  This is called “pretrial probation,” and in some circumstances is actually a very favorable disposition, depending on the offense, the facts, and the potential penalties if the defendant were to go to trial and be found guilty. Continue reading

Way back in 1988, at the beginning of the “get-tough-on-crime” push in Massachusetts for tougher criminal sentencing and mandatory minimum sentencing laws (a massive failure,) a law was passed  requiring the Massachusetts RMV to suspend the drivers’ licenses of anyone convicted of a Massachusetts drug offense.  Even a minor possession charge.  What did this result in?  Over 27 years, tens and tens of thousands of people lost their drivers’ licenses – even if they weren’t sentenced to any jail time; a conviction, followed by probation, was enough to trigger the suspension.  What did this further result in?  Many of these people couldn’t get jobs, because they needed a car to drive to work if the job applied for wasn’t near public transportation.  That resulted in cyclical unemployment, and an incentive to commit more crime to somehow get their hands on money.  And who paid for all these negative results?  You and me:  The taxpayers.  How? Through our taxes, to pay for unemployment, welfare, and overcrowded jails.  Continue reading

I’ve posted in this blog previously about how Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello introduced his own Department policy of not prosecuting addicts who come in to his police department with illegal drugs and/or drug paraphernalia, seeking medical treatment for their addiction.  I wrote of how sensible, humane, and long-past due this type of rational thinking is, and of how Chief Campanello’s approach should be emulated, not only across Massachusetts, but across the United States.

Well, it seems that this hope, may become a reality.  Through legislation recently filed by Gloucester state Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, persons who appear at any Massachusetts police department, seeking medical treatment for a drug addiction, would not be criminal charged or prosecuted for a Massachusetts drug offense – so long as that person is acting in good faith.  Addicts seeking help with recovery could turn in unwanted heroin and other drugs, without fear of criminal prosecution. Continue reading

In my previous post on this subject, I wrote of how the only sex crime prosecution to date against Bill Cosby, may be ultimately derailed.

The reason has to do with an agreement that the previous Montgomery County District Attorney, Bruce Castor, made with Cosby’s attorneys, over ten years ago.  Then agreement promised not to prosecute Mr. Cosby for what is essentially the crime of indecent assault & battery in connection with allegations made by a woman named Andrea Constand.  Mr. Castor says that he agreed not to prosecute Mr. Cosby, in order to increase Ms. Constand’s chances of prevailing in a civil suit against Mr. Cosby for damages relating to the alleged incident. Continue reading

Up until very recently, it looked as though Bill Cosby’s legal luck had run out; that the celebrity actor was finally going to face prosecution for at least one allegation of rape and sexual assault.  That case stems out of Pennsylvania, and involves an alleged victim named Andrea Constand, who told police in 2005 that Cosby drugged her and then sexually assaulted her at his home in  Pennsylvania in 2004.   At that time, the former Montgomery County District Attorney, a man named Bruce Castor Castor, determined that there was not enough evidence to charge Cosby, but stated in a press release that  all parties to this matter that he will reconsider this decision should the need arise.”

Fast forward ten years, and just last month, December 2015, Cosby was legally charged for the first time, even though almost 50 women have come forward claiming that over decades of time, Cosby drugged, then sexually abused and /or raped them.  The specific crime that Cosby was charged with in Pennsylavnia in December was indecent aggravated assault, involving Andrea Constand’s 2005 allegations against Cosby.   So it looked as though the law had finally caught up with the entertainer.  But some interesting events over just the last few days may imperil that case being prosecuted. Continue reading

There’s been a lot of talk lately, across the country and in Massachusetts also, about whether or not police patrol officers and other law enforcement personnel should wear body cameras.   This debate has been fueled, of course, by allegations of police brutality & police misconduct, and the resulting lawsuits, following the shooting of minority defendants in various incidents across the country.

As a Boston criminal defense attorney, it’s my professional opinion that this is a great idea:  It provides both suspects as well as police officers an objective method of proof as to what did and did not occur in any given situation:  If an arrested suspect or a suspect who has been shot by police has been the victim of unnecessary force, there will be an objective source of evidence to prove it.  If a police officer has not used excessive force or otherwise done anything legally or procedurally prohibited by law or Department regulations, that can also be proven, immediately.  Forget the talking heads on the cable news shows.  Forget the endless blathering by those who make their careers on race-baiting and inflammatory accusations (I don’t have to name names here, do I?).  Forget the shout-fests on both liberal and conservative “news” channels.  The objective evidence will be right there – and it won’t lie. Continue reading

As I write this post, Thanksgiving Day is winding down. Another exercise in mad dashes and massive traffic jams, to get together to give thanks for what we have. (Though most people use it as an excuse to gorge themselves, watch football, and avoid arguments with family members.) Regardless, if you got through this day unscathed from any of the above risks, I’m afraid you may not be in the clear just yet.

Not if you plan on joining the mad throngs descending on the retailers who run “Black Friday” sales. Black Friday, of course, is so named for the fact that the sales volumes typically racked up at large retailers on this day, create large profits leaving these stores “in the black” –earning profits – instead of “in the red” – losing profits. But aside from accounting jargon, this day should be called black for another good reason: The dark, disturbed impulses it brings out in so many people – in the name of “getting a good deal” on some ridiculous material purchase (did someone say the latest iPhone? 60” Flat screen TV?) Continue reading

Police Department records are public documents. Though not everyone knows that, many people do. That’s a good thing, because, for obvious reasons, we wouldn’t want Police Departments to operate in secrecy. Not only do police departments keep their daily logs public – which are abbreviated, digested descriptions of police activity, they must also make the full records of those incidents, which are much lengthier than a simple log entry, public upon request.

So you’d think that the same laws would apply to Massachusetts college & university campus police departments, right? If you said “yes,” you’d be wrong. Continue reading

Yesterday, the Boston Globe reported on a murder that almost certainly could have been prevented, involving a domestic violence call that Boston Police Department officers had responded to a year ago, in November 2014.  This story has cause a lot of concerns among the public about the effectiveness of restraining orders, that I’d like to address today.

The BPD officers who responded to the call, reportedly did not check to see whether the victim had previously been previously granted an Abuse Prevention Order (restraining order) against her boyfriend.  Doing so is the first order of business when police officers respond to calls of domestic abuse.  Instead, the officers removed the boyfriend from the apartment, and dropped him off at a detox center.  A day later, that person murdered the victim, who previously had, in fact, taken out a restraining order against him.  If the officers had checked this out as protocol requires, they would have arrested that person, immediately.  To be fair, both the victim and the accused were reportedly extremely intoxicated at the scene, and in no condition to convey accurate information to the officers.   Regardless, the officers could have checked for this information, with a simple call to their dispatcher. Continue reading

Here in Massachusetts, we’ve got a serious problem involving heroin use. A lot of deaths have resulted, and clearly, we need to address this problem. No one, including myself, disputes that.

But you can rely on government to step in and largely botch the potential solutions to a given problem. Entirely unproductive efforts, misguided approaches and hundreds of billions of dollars of wasted taxpayer money have been the combined legacy of this country’s utter and abject failure to address drug use that is harmful. For the past 40+ years, the federal and state governments have dramatically called this effort, the “War on Drugs.” And it has been no more effective than the “War on Poverty.” (Look around you, if you doubt that.)

The most recent, and here in Massachusetts, most local example of this wasted and misdirected energy to address the heroin epidemic in Massachusetts? Gov. Charlie Baker’s recent proposal to limit the amount of painkillers that doctors can prescribe for patients, a product of his “Opioid Working Group,” which he assembled to “tackle” the heroin epidemic in Massachusetts. As part of his grand plan, Gov. Baker would step in between the privacy of doctors and patients, and actually prevent doctors from writing prescriptions for pain medications beyond a very small number of pills (maximum of 72 hour supply,) for seriously injured and ill patients, suffering from severe pain.

Continue reading