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The Massachusetts SJC just issued a very controversial ruling in reviewing a criminal case that, as a Boston criminal defense lawyer, most people would expect me to agree with wholeheartedly.  I don’t.  My views aren’t going to win me much agreement with my colleagues in the criminal defense bar, but I just can’t support this finding.

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In my previous post on this subject, I wrote about how bad the incidence of texting and driving has become– as well as cell phone use when driving – in Massachusetts and New England.  Here I’ll discuss what’s being done in other states, and what might be done here to more aggressively tackle this change-resistant problem.

Presently, forty-six states in the U.S. have enacted laws against texting while driving.  Almost all of those states also prohibit sending or reading email, or otherwise using the phone.   Unfortunately, in Florida, texting is a secondary offense, which means that even if a police officer sees a driver texting, the officer can’t stop that driver unless another violation is observed, such as speeding. Continue reading

So many times when driving around, I ask myself, ”What is wrong with people these days?  Are they just plain stupid, homicidal or suicidal?”  I’m referring, of course, to the widespread and outrageously growing habit of texting while driving.

On a clinical level of mental health, I wonder what new, modern mental illness will soon be named to describe people who do this.  “Subconsciously suicidal ideation?”  “Pre-homicidal aggression?”  Or how about calling a spade a spade, and just calling it for what it is:  Idiotic.  Truly, as a Boston car accident lawyer, I have seen an alarming spike in the number of serious Massachusetts motor vehicle accident injuries that have been cause by people texting and driving – or talking on their cell phones while driving. It’s almost unfathomable that drivers would risk their own lives, their families’ lives, and the lives of others, to read a ridiculous text message, or answer a phone call. Continue reading

As everyone knows, self-serve checkout stations at supermarkets continues to grow exponentially, even at retail store outlets that aren’t purely supermarkets like Stop & Shop, Star Markets or Shaw’s.  Personally, I don’t like them as I find them too impersonal, and their expansion will continue to cut jobs in that industry.  But the companies that own these store chains can cut a lot of labor costs – and that’s their goal, for good or ill.

On the “ill” side of things, though, this technology has brought about an increase in crime – specifically, shoplifting charges.   More than one study has determined that the increased use of self-service checkouts correlates with an increase in revenue losses.  One such wide-ranging study of retailers in the U.S., Britain and other European countries found that use of this technology produced an average revenue loss rate of 4 percent of gross sales.  Since the profit margin of most supermarket retailers hovers around 3 percent, that almost makes use of self-service checkouts counter-productive from an earning standpoint. Continue reading

No, the title of this post is not some Republican campaign slogan, and it’s not a joke, either.

Barack Obama’s Drug Enforcement administration (DEA) today issued its final decision that marijuana is to remain on the federal government’s list of the most highly dangerous and regulated drugs, the Associated Press reported today.   The decision followed a petition by the governors of Washington state and Rhode Island to reclassify pot into a far less severe category.  Note:  That petition by the governors of the above states was filed at the DEA in 2011 – yes, it has taken the DEA five years to arrive at not only any decision in this matter, but the most scientifically and socially unsupported decision possible.  This is your tax dollars at work: Stonewalling, inefficiency, foot dragging.

So why would the federal government take five years to reach this insulting and unsupportable decision?  Two words:  Politics and money – inseparable bedfellows.  You see, controlled substances (regulated drugs) are classified by the DEA into five different “schedules” – from the most dangerous drugs that the federal government has declared have no medicinal value (“Schedule 1”,) to the least dangerous drugs that the DEA has declared do have medicinal value (“Schedule 5”.)  Example:  Heroin is classified as a Schedule 1 drug.  Care to know where marijuana has been classified, for over 70 years?  Correct:  Schedule 1 – along with the likes of heroin – and extremely dangerous drug, with extremely high addiction potential.

In my previous post on this subject, I discussed how the Massachusetts Legislature is debating on whether to change the current OUI/DUI law in Massachusetts – known As “Melanie’s Law” for the young girl who was killed by a repeat drunk driver.  The change now being vigorously argued over would require Ignition Interlock Devices (IID’s) to be mandatory for anyone convicted or pleading guilty to a first offense OUI. Currently, Massachusetts law requires IID’s to be installed for persons convicted of Operating Under the Influence for a second offense and higher.

As a Massachusetts DUI attorney, even though on a professional level I fight zealously in representing my clients as their legal counsel, on personal level I abhor the idea of driving while intoxicated.  Who doesn’t?  I don’t want myself or the people I love injured or killed by a drunk driver.  But I’m a criminal defense attorney, and I know the dangers of trying to solve a public policy problem by wiping out important legal rights that our Constitution guarantees us all. Continue reading

I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life.  I’ve been driving since I was able to get my learner’s permit at age 16 (no, I won’t tell you what year that was…)  The point being, I know what it’s like to drive in Massachusetts – and for anyone reading this from the Bay State, you know:  It isn’t pretty.  Why this is so has been the subject of both serious speculation and jokes (including the well-earned moniker of “Massholes” to describe most Massachusetts drivers.)

It used to be true that other parts of the country (with the possible exception of drivers in New York City,) were much tamer and more civil.  But this problem is no longer two things:  1) It’s no longer funny – it can be downright life-threatening; and 2) It’s no longer confined to Massachusetts.  Like a metastasizing cancer, road rage has rapidly spread to other parts of the country – places where it was rarely experienced in years past. Continue reading

A battle over how to reduce drunk driving even further has been brewing for some time now at the Massachusetts State House.  Leading this effort is the Massachusetts chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD.)  MADD is a laudable organization, with an admirable goal:  The elimination of drunk and drugged driving.  I say this even though I am a Wrentham Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer, and even though I think drunk and drugged driving will never, unfortunately, be completely “eliminated.” Continue reading

We all see the occasional reports that come out by various organizations, listing “Best Places To Live,” “Best Companies to Work For,” and many other kinds of lists.

Allstate Insurance Co. just released a report listing the best & worst 200 cities in the U.S. when it comes motor vehicle drivers.  Care to know where Boston came in?  200th.  Yes, you read that correctly: 200th out of 200 of the worst cities in the U.S., when it comes to motor vehicle drivers.  Number 199 out of the worst 200?  Worcester, Mass.

What an ignominious distinction.  Shamefully, it is well-known.  (In fact, you’ll pardon my French as they say, but Massachusetts drivers are commonly referred to by drivers in other states as “Massholes.”)  What is it about Massachusetts drivers that make us so horrible on the road?  It would be one thing if we landed, say 100th out of 200, or somewhere in the middle of the list – but the worst on a list of 200 U.S.. cities?   This is downright awful.  As a Massachusetts Operating to Endanger lawyer, I see these cases every day:  Extreme speeding, Driving to Endanger, Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle, Massachusetts Immediate Threat Suspensions.   These criminal charges can be very serious.  The car accident injuries that result from this behavior are often very severe, and can change someone’s life forever. Continue reading

In my previous post on this subject of ending drug violence, I talked about how black markets and the violent crime that flows from them are created by government prohibition .  This is what prohibition of any substance or material, causes.  If the federal government made drinking water illegal tomorrow, black markets and criminals that manipulate them would crop up overnight.  If milk – yes, milk, were for some reason made illegal, there would be criminals dealing milk – complete with controlling territories to distribute it.  Violent crime would be created, complete with gangs and turf wars.  Police would battle these gangs and murders and mayhem would follow.  Raids would be conducted, arrests would be made, defendants would be prosecuted, billions of dollars would be spent – and the crime bosses that controlled the production and distribution of water or milk would never be defeated.

I know may people just won’t believe this.  They think the best thing we can do, is just keep fighting and prosecuting Massachusetts drug crimes, and drug crimes all across the country.  My response is based on three different qualification levels:  1) As a Massachusetts drug crimes lawyer; 2) As someone who has a degree in Economics, and 3) As someone who is a student of history.  NO AMOUNT of government arrests and prosecution of drug criminals will EVER eliminate the presence of drug lords, drug dealers, drug users, or drug victims.  It is sociologically, politically, and legally impossible.  I refer you to one simple word:  Prohibition.  When the federal government illegalized alcohol in 1920 through the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a black market for all kinds of alcohol was created overnight.  It took less than a few weeks for major criminal enterprises to erupt, the most famous being led by Al Capone.  Thousands of murders were committed; violence in cities and towns across America erupted; tens of thousands of arrests were made.   Hundreds of millions of dollars (in 1930’s value) were spent battling it through police departments and court prosecutors, led by Elliot Ness and his “Untouchables.”  The end result?  Utter failure.  Finally, after 13 years and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent, the federal government woke up and ended prohibition in 1933, through the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.  A massive waste.

If we legalized drugs that are illegal today, we would achieve two positive and immediate effects:  1) We would destroy the power, control, and the wealth that illegal drug organizations now control.  Whether drug lords in Colombia and Mexico, or drug dealers on the streets of our cities, they’d be out of business, overnight.  The violence and terrorism that surrounds drug use would cease.  2)  We could treat users of unhealthy and addictive drugs as health problems, not lock them up as criminals.  In the process, we would save billions of taxpayer dollars, make our communities safer places to live, and help addicts recover by putting them in clinics, not jails.  As a Norfolk County Massachusetts drug offenses lawyer with decades of experience handling Massachusetts drug cases, I can assure you this is so. For those who are still unconvinced, I suggest they visit this site:  Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a progressive organization of present and former police officers and other law enforcement officials, as well as former prosecutors, who agree:  Keeping drugs illegal only creates crime and keeps drug addicts hostage to their addictions.