Massachusetts “Three Strikes” Crime Bill Is Passed by House

Get three criminal convictions against you for a variety of violent crimes, and you’re out of luck. You will lose your chance for parole.

That’s the key message behind the tough-on-crime “three strikes” bill that the Massachusetts House voted in favor of this week. This crackdown bill basically eliminates the possibility of parole for habitual criminal offenders who are guilty of three violent offenses. In addition, those who are given more than one life sentence would also lose their chance for parole. However, the bill also reduces some mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, which is a legislative measure long past overdue, in my professional opinion as a Norfolk County drug charges lawyer.

Today, July 19th, 2012, the legislation heads to the Massachusetts Senate, where it is expected that it will be debated next Thursday. If this bill is eventually passed, it will be a milestone, as there’s been more than decade of stalled attempts to change the way repeat Massachusetts criminals are sentenced.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo claims that it is a step forward. Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to review the bill before deciding whether to sign it or seek amendments.

It has been said that the public outcry over the killing of Woburn police officer John Maguire on Christmas weekend back in 2010, by a repeat criminal out on parole, renewed lawmakers’ push for the bill. One of the bill’s most vocal supporters is Les Gosule. Back in 1999, Mr. Gosule’s daughter was raped and killed by a man named Michael Gentile, a repeat offender who had previously been convicted of 27 crimes. Mr. Gosule pushed for a change in state law, which eventually led to Melissa’s Bill, which is who this bill is named for.

There are two camps in this argument. There are the law and order advocates (political conservatives, generally speaking,) who want everyone protected from violent prison inmates who have been released early on parole. In fact, many of them believe that the bill doesn’t go far enough. Then there are the civil rights advocates (liberals, generally speaking,) who argue that prisoners’ legal rights to parole may be eliminated in the rush to pass a strong anti-crime bill. As a Norfolk County criminal defense attorney, I believe that what’s needed here is balance and perspective. In saying this, I am repeating here what I said in an earlier blog post about this very subject.

As of right now, the current version of this bill would apply to 46 different violent felonies. The long list of crimes that Melissa’s Bill pertains to include:

• Murder
• Indecent Assault and Battery On A Child Under Age 14
• Assault and Battery With A Dangerous Weapon
• Rape
• Kidnapping
• Armed Burglary
• Stealing by Confining
• Poisoning • Possession of Child Pornography • And Inducing a Minor Into Prostitution.

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