Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

False accusations occur more frequently than most people think. Especially when it comes to cases involving bitter divorces and child custody battles. Depending on the circumstances of the accusation, however, penalties range from a proverbial slap on the wrist to up to 20 years in prison. The penalties you may be facing for making false criminal accusations are largely dependent on your intent, what you accused someone of, and how you made the accusation.

Accidentally making a false accusation is not a crime. If you report in good faith that someone has committed a crime, you are not likely to face criminal prosecution even if that person did not, in fact, commit a crime. Of course, you may have to convince the court that your accusation was made in good faith. A MA defense lawyer can help if you find yourself in this situation. If, however, you cannot show that you reasonably believed the accusation to be true, you may find yourself criminally and civilly liable.

Was There Intent?

In MA, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly report false information to police. In addition to up to one year in jail, you may also face a civil lawsuit for falsely accusing another person of a crime. False accusations can result in emotional distress and suffering on the part of the person being accused. For these reasons, you could be facing punitive and compensatory damages for making a false accusation. Compensatory damages compensate victims for any losses they suffered due to your actions, while punitive damages are paid as a form of punishment.

When you falsely accuse another person of committing a crime, the legal claims you are most likely to face will be civil claims based on one of the following: malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, or defamation of character.

Accusations of Terrorism

In some cases, false accusations can carry felony charges. If you falsely accuse someone of terrorist activity, or of something serious and immediate enough to require urgent response from police, your punishment will be more severe. “Swatting” occurs when a SWAT team or other urgent response from law enforcement is necessitated. Penalties for this type of false accusation are much higher for two reasons: there is a greater chance that the civil rights of the accused will be violated if an urgent response occurs, and the cost of deploying a SWAT team or similar response is great. As such, false accusations involving terrorism may be punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Randomly making a false accusation about someone to a friend or acquaintance isn’t likely to result in criminal charges. When you make false accusations to law enforcement, however, you are likely to find yourself in hot water.  A Boston defense attorney can help you determine the best legal strategy if you are facing these charges. Of course, as with all offenses, prior criminal history will factor heavily in the outcome of your case. Continue reading

OUI checkpoints pop up on heavily traveled roads throughout MA every weekend. You have rights if you are stopped at one of these checkpoints, but it’s important to keep the following in mind – the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that OUI checkpoints are legal. So, while you do have rights, you must stop at a checkpoint if directed to do so. Read on for more information about what to do, and what not to do, if you are stopped.

OUI Checkpoint Dos

  • If you are directed to stop, do so as soon as it is safe to pull over. The requested stops are usually done at random, so don’t panic if you are directed to pull over.
  • Stay calm, and politely follow the officer’s instructions.
  • Provide law enforcement with requested information, such as your driver’s license and vehicle registration. Failing to do so may cause suspicion and result in further complications, even your arrest.

OUI Checkpoint Don’ts

  • Avoid violating traffic laws when you are driving through a checkpoint. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to make mistakes when you are panicking. Don’t make illegal U-turns, use excessive speed, or ignore an officer’s signals to pull over. These actions could give police reason to suspect you of OUI.
  • Don’t unnecessarily incriminate yourself. If police ask if you’ve had anything to drink, politely decline to answer the question. Although you may think it will help your case to say you’ve only had one or two beers, this statement can be used against you. In fact, other than providing police with identifying information, such as your license and registration, you should – politely – decline to answer any questions that police ask you.
  • Decline field sobriety tests. You are absolutely able to refuse field sobriety tests; politely decline and inform police that you know it is your right to refuse.
  • Do not volunteer to take a breath test. If you haven’ been arrested, you are not required to submit to a breath test. Once you have been arrested, there are penalties for refusing. However, in some cases these penalties are less severe than the potential penalties of an OUI conviction. It is impossible to give a blanket statement as to whether you should or should not refuse a breath test if arrested for OUI. This can only be determined on a case by case basis, incorporating factors such as prior criminal history and OUI convictions. A Boston defense attorney can help you understand how refusing a breath test might impact you, based on your personal circumstances.

Massachusetts is tough on OUI. Even first-time offenders may see jail time, have their license suspended, and be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed. These devices require a driver to provide an alcohol-free breath sample before his or her engine will start, and periodically throughout the drive. Second and subsequent offenders will have even stiffer penalties. If you made the mistake of driving while intoxicated, don’t make another one by hiring the wrong attorney. A skilled MA OUI attorney can make all the difference in the world.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Criminal Defense Law Firm

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Since 2014, following a Supreme Court ruling, police have needed a warrant to search cell phones of criminal suspects. According to the justices, cell phones and other electronic devices belong to a different category than other “closed containers,” such as wallets and vehicles. When law enforcement officers have probable cause, they are able to conduct limited searches of these items. However, due to the extent and type of information that portable electronic devices may contain, the court agreed that they must be treated differently.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, “unreasonable searches and seizures” are prohibited. Despite this, warrantless searches are sometimes permitted, when the safety of officers is in jeopardy and, in some cases, when the destruction of evidence is a concern. This is why initial, limited searches of vehicles, wallets, and purses or briefcases are allowed in certain situations. But smart phones are different. This ruling came after criminal suspects in California and Massachusetts were convicted, in separate cases, following a warrantless search of their electronic devices. Using text messages, phone numbers, addresses, and photos found in their devices, officials were able to link them to gang activity. A MA defense attorney can help if you believe your constitutional rights were violated during your arrest.

The 2014 Supreme Court ruling stated that:

”The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”

Almost Everyone Has a Cellphone

According to a Pew Research Center survey, more than 90 percent of Americans currently have access to a cellphone, and about 58 percent have a “smart phone.” And it’s not just the United States. According to the United Nations, most of the seven billion people on earth have access to mobile devices.”Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse,” remarked Chief Justice John Roberts. “Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person.”

Just as law enforcement cannot search someone’s home without a warrant – except under very specific circumstances – they cannot search a cellphone. As cellphone and smart phone technology is new (relatively speaking), legislation around their searches is complex, and constantly evolving. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime following a search of your portable electronic device. Continue reading

Nobody wants to find themselves in court, but it can happen to the best of us. You may be required to appear in court to contest a simple traffic ticket, or for something more serious. In any case, it is in your best interest to convey to the judge that you are taking the matter seriously. Showing respect for the court is crucial to the outcome of your case. Read on for more information about what to do, and what not to do, if you have to appear in court.

Dos and Don’ts in Court

With the help of a skilled MA defense attorney, and by following the tips below, you can significantly improve your chances of success.

  • Dress professionally. As children, we are taught to not judge a book by it’s cover. But court is one place where that advice temporarily goes out the window. First impressions can have an immensely positive or negative impact in court. Dressing professionally and showing up well groomed conveys respect for the judge, and for the matter at hand. You should wear a suit or similar professional attire, and facial hair should be trimmed and neat. Women should avoid excessive make-up and jewelry. Dress as if you are going to a job interview.
  • Avoid speaking without first consulting with your attorney. You have the right to remain silent. Use it to your advantage. In some instances, it may be a good idea to speak, but check with your Boston defense attorney before making that decision. This is true even when the judge is asking you a question.
  • Always be respectful to the judge and courtroom staff. This sounds simple, but it can be difficult to remain silent and respectful when people are accusing you of horrible things, especially when you are innocent. Despite the things being said about you, it is extremely important to avoid responding when you haven’t been asked to do so. Interrupting anyone, especially the judge, is a very bad move. If you’re especially out of line, the judge could hold you in contempt. Always address the judge as “Your Honor,” and address the courtroom staff as “ma’am” or “sir.”
  • Avoid unnecessary distractions, such as phones, food, drinks…and children. Most judges don’t appreciate it when cellphones ring – or even vibrate – during court hearings. And distractions, in general, are unwelcome. Ice rattling in a cup, a wrapper crinkling as you unwrap a candy bar, and the sound of gum chewing or popping can negatively impact your case. This is especially true with regard to bringing children. Yes, children can be a distraction…but that’s not the main reason bringing children to a courtroom is frowned upon. Court hearings are rarely a good place for kids. Subject matter can be highly inappropriate, and even scary, for young ones. Your best bet is to make prior arrangements for someone to care for your children if you have to appear in court.
  • Lastly, show up on time.  There is no faster way to start off on the wrong foot with,Judges, Magistrates, Court Officers than showing up late.

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Driving on a suspended license is a crime in MA, but we understand that the decision to do so is often for very practical reasons. Maybe you had to pick up one of your kids, or drive to an interview. The decision to drive on a suspended license isn’t a good one, but it doesn’t make you a bad person either. A MA defense lawyer can help you manage the damage if you’ve been charged with driving on a suspended license.

Driver’s licenses can be suspended or revoked for a variety of reasons, including driving under the influence, littering, or having an outstanding warrant. If your license is suspended, don’t drive. But if you already failed to heed that advice, there are several defenses that may be available to you. The underlying offense that resulted in your suspension, and prior criminal history will factor heavily in the outcome of your case. If, for example, you have no other criminal history and your license was suspended because you were delinquent on child support payments, you have a better chance of having your charges dropped than if you are a habitual offender whose license was suspended for reckless driving while under the influence of drugs.

Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License

If you are convicted of operating on a suspended or revoked license, the factors mentioned above will come into play. However, the penalties below provide a good idea of the fines and possible jail time you may be facing.

  • First offense: A maximum of 10 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Second offense: Up to one year in jail.
  • Habitual offender: Up to two years in a state prison, and up to $5,000 in fines.

In addition to the above penalties, your driver’s license may be suspended for additional time, or it may be revoked altogether.

“I Didn’t Know My License Was Suspended”

It is absolutely possible for people to have a suspended license without knowing it. In fact, it happens all the time. Maybe you have an out of state license, or you recently moved. You may have missed a notification that your license was to be suspended for too many speeding tickets or unpaid tolls, for example. Not knowing that your license is suspended is not a defense by itself. However, if it can be shown that you truly were unaware of the suspension, and the other factors surrounding your offense are not severe, a Boston defense lawyer can use this as a way to mitigate the damage. In many cases, a skilled lawyer can get the charges dropped completely.

What if Your License Was Revoked?

If you get caught driving on a revoked license, the penalties are generally more serious. In the majority of cases, you will face mandatory jail time for this offense. This is especially true if the revocation was for a 5th OUI offense. Don’t make the mistake of hiring just any lawyer if you’ve been charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license. Your decision could be the difference between time behind bars and a complete dismissal of charges. Continue reading

People make mistakes. If a past mistake resulted in a criminal record, you may be worried about how it might affect your chances of getting a certain job. Some fields, especially those that involve working with children, are especially thorough when it comes to background checks. If you are considering becoming a teacher, it would be wise to do some research on how a past criminal conviction may impact your chances. The information below may provide answers to some of your questions. If you still have questions after reading this post, a Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to move forward.

Which Crimes are Showstoppers?

Here’s the thing – it’s not usually the criminal record itself that prevents you from getting a job, but the nature of the underlying offense. A misdemeanor offense from years ago can likely be explained away, but a sexual abuse conviction, for example, is another story. Local school districts hire teachers, and those districts must adhere to state regulations when it comes to teacher certification and hiring guidelines. With regard to Massachusetts, the offenses below will either seriously impact your ability to become a teacher in this state, or they will disqualify you altogether:

  • First and second-degree felonies: These are generally serious crimes, and school districts will consider them seriously. If the felony occurred a long time ago, and it wasn’t of a sexual or violent nature, it is possible that a solid explanation can pave the way to a teaching job. But you may have an uphill climb, to say the least.
  • Sexual Offenses: These are likely to be showstoppers. Teachers deal with children on a daily basis, and a person who has a history of sexual offenses may not be the best candidate for this type of position. Even if your crime wasn’t against a child, a sexual offense will almost certainly disqualify you from becoming a teacher in MA.
  • Offenses that endangered others: If you have been convicted of an endangerment offense (anything that put the safety or lives of others in jeopardy), you will probably not being writing your name on a blackboard in MA anytime soon.
  • Drug offenses: Here, again, the underlying offense is the determining factor. If you were busted smoking pot 10 years ago, you’ll probably be off the hook if your record has remained clear since. But if you were convicted of heroin possession with the intent to sell three years ago, chances are you’re not going to be called back for a second interview.

There are ways to get a teaching position with a criminal record. And there are ways to get certain past convictions expunged (cleared from your record entirely). A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine if expungement is an option for you.

The following statement was taken from the website of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

“A criminal record will not automatically disqualify an individual from licensure

by the Department. Rather, the Department will make determinations of an

individual’s suitability based on CORI checks conducted consistent with this

policy, with licensure standards adopted by the Board of Education, and with any

other applicable law or regulations.” Continue reading

In MA, if you are charged with certain criminal offenses, you may be eligible for something called a pre-trial diversion program. But what exactly does that mean? Well, in short, it’s a program that allows defendants with little to no criminal past to avoid the traditional criminal justice system. In exchange they are enrolled in a program that, upon successful completion, results in dropped charges and no record. Usually reserved for minor offenses committed by young people, such as non-violent alcohol and drug related crimes, a MA defense attorney can help you determine if pre-trial diversion is an option for you.

Criminal convictions come with a whole slew of problems, from jail time and hefty fines to long-term probation and a criminal record. With pre-trial diversion, you may be able to avoid all of the above. In MA, if your offense was relatively minor and you have little to no criminal record, or you are a veteran, you may be eligible for this program. Run by the local District Attorney’s Office, pre-trial diversion requires the successful completion of several requirements. A Boston defense attorney can evaluate the details of your case to determine if the District Attorney’s Office is likely to agree to diversion. If you are eligible, you may never have to face a judge.

What are the Requirements of Pre-Trial Diversion?

The requirements you must complete are largely dependent on the underlying crime. For example, if you were charged as a minor in possession of alcohol, you may be required to enroll in an alcohol abuse treatment program. If you successfully complete the program, your charges will be dismissed. In order to be considered for the program, however, you must fit into certain categories. These include:

  • You must be between 17 and 22 years of age.
  • Your charge must be a misdemeanor and a first offense (most commonly-approved charges include theft, shoplifting, drunk driving, and assault).
  • You must have no warrants for your arrest.
  • You must have no pending federal or state criminal cases.
  • The court must have jurisdiction over the crime you are being charged with.

Pre-Trial Diversion for Military Veterans

There is one exception for the age requirement – being a military veteran. In fact, certain diversion programs are uniquely tailored to veterans. If you do not complete your requirements or you violate any of its terms, you will be re-entered into the criminal justice system. This exception for veterans is pursuant to the Valor Act. Under this law, a veteran may be permitted to enroll in a diversion program as an alternative to prosecution. In order to qualify, the individual must:

  • Be a veteran, be a member of active service, or have past military history.
  • Be charged with a state crime.
  • Have no previous federal or state convictions.
  • Have no warrants for arrest.
  • Have no pending criminal cases.

Veterans who qualify for the program are usually enrolled in Mission Direct Vet (MDV) treatment programs. MDV offers treatment programs for veterans suffering from substance abuse and mental health problems. Continue reading

In short, yes. But it’s not only the gun that matters, it’s the threat. If you threaten a person with physical harm, and the person reasonably believes that you may inflict that harm, that crime is known as “assault.” Whether you point a gun, a knife, or even a closed fist at someone, if he or she fears for their safety, you may be charged with assault. That being said, pointing a gun at someone is more likely to be perceived as a real threat than shaking a closed fist would be. For this reason, an assault charge involving a gun will probably require a more complex defense than would an assault without a deadly weapon. An experienced Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are charged with assault.

The sheer presence of a firearm is compelling evidence for the prosecution. Consider the following example: About one year ago, a Maryland police officer was convicted of first and second degree assault after he was caught on film ordering a man into his vehicle while pointing a gun at his head. Officer Jenchesky Santiago was observed shouting at William Cunningham in a way that seemed to convince both Cunningham and those who watched the video that he intended to use the gun. And the whole incident began because Cunningham was illegally parked. Not only was the officer’s response disproportionate to the very minor infraction, it was deemed an assault crime in court.

Assault vs. Assault and Battery

Assault can be a confusing charge because it is often used interchangeably with assault and battery. But battery is really a separate activity. While assault occurs when you make a threat of physical harm, battery occurs when you make good on that threat. The individual doesn’t have to be injured by the battery to constitute a charge of assault and battery. For example, if you attempt to punch someone in the face but he ducks and you only graze his cheek, you can still be charged with assault and battery. In that example, you may even be charged with assault and battery if you miss him entirely. The simple fact that you attempted to make good on your threat of physical harm is often enough.

Penalties for Assault or Assault and Battery

Not every threat is assault, however. A skilled MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights and reputation if you are facing an assault charge. If you are convicted of assault, or assault and battery, you may face the following penalties:

  • Both assault and assault and battery are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to two-and-a-half years in jail.
  • Assault that causes serious bodily injury is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
  • If you cause harm to a child, you can face up to five years in prison. If that harm is substantial, you may spend up to 15 years in prison.

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The United States Constitution holds that a citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, there are some exceptions. In Massachusetts, an individual accused of a crime can be detained in the county jail, before his trial, for up to 90 days if he is deemed a “dangerous person.” This is known as pre-trial detention.

In addition to creating extra stress and hardship, pre-trial detention can impede the defendant’s ability to work with his lawyer on a defense. In most cases, a defense lawyer works with the defendant, immediately following a charge, to craft an effective defense while details are still fresh in his mind. During these crucial hours and days following a criminal charge, the defendant may:

  • Provide contact information for witnesses.
  • Visit the scene of the alleged crime with his lawyer.
  • Provide details of the events leading to his arrest.
  • Work with his attorney to gather important evidence.

If the defendant is locked in pre-trial detention during this important phase of the defense process, his chances of success are dramatically reduced. For this reason, among others, it is essential to find a Boston defense attorney who understands how to avoid pre-trial detention. And if, for any reason, your attorney is unable to remove such an order, he or she should understand how to use it to your advantage. When a defendant is subjected to pre-trial detention, his attorney is generally permitted greater access to the prosecution’s witnesses. During cross-examination, a skilled MA defense attorney can look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and use them to the defendant’s advantage.

What Types of Crimes Can Place a Defendant in Pre-Trial Detention in MA?

This type of order is most commonly issued in domestic abuse cases, but the following scenarios may also result in the pre-trial detention of a defendant:

  • Felonies involving “the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”
  • Felonies that involved a “substantial risk” of physical force or injury even if no injury occurred.
  • Violations of restraining orders.
  • Misdemeanors or felonies involving abuse.
  • Drug offenses with mandatory minimum sentences of three years or more.
  • Third or subsequent motor vehicle offenses (generally involving drunk driving).

Prior to the issuance of a pre-trial detention order, a hearing must be held. The hearing is like a mini-version of the upcoming trial; the judge makes rulings and examines the facts. However, the hearing is also an opportunity for the defense attorney to learn a great deal about the prosecution’s evidence, or lack thereof.

What Factors Does a Judge Consider When Deciding if a Pre-Trial Detention is Necessary?

  • The level of danger posed to the community by the defendant.
  • The allegations of violence against the defendant.
  • The potential penalties if the defendant is convicted.
  • History of mental illness.
  • The defendant’s reputation.
  • The risk that the defendant will attempt to intimidate witnesses or obstruct justice.
  • Past criminal record.
  • Whether the alleged crime included abuse.
  • History of restraining order violations, if any.

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Many states are now requiring the installation of interlock ignition devices (IIDs) for those convicted of OUI offenses (even first-time offenders). Massachusetts is one of them. But it was a Pennsylvania mom, Angela Daywalt, who recently made national headlines after using her young daughter to bypass the device while she risked both of their lives. In MA, if you are charged with OUI, don’t make the mistake of hiring an inexperienced attorney. A skilled MA criminal defense attorney can position you for the most favorable outcome possible.

What is an Interlock Ignition Device?

An IID is a device that requires a driver to submit an alcohol-free breath sample prior to starting a vehicle. If your car is equipped with an IID, you must blow into the device to start the engine, as well as periodically throughout the drive. In the case of Ms. Daywalt, she was attempting to flee the scene of a drunk driving accident in which she had just been involved, but the intoxicated mom needed a fresh breath sample to re-start her vehicle. To solve her problem, Daywalt asked her eight year old daughter to blow into the device on her behalf.

In addition to drunk driving charges, Daywalt is also facing child endangerment charges and multiple traffic and summary violations. According to witnesses, the mom of the year was seen urging her child to blow into the IID. Although she made it home, police caught up with her shortly thereafter. A subsequent blood alcohol test revealed that she was, indeed, intoxicated. A Boston OUI offense attorney can be the difference between jail time and a full dismissal of your case. If you’ve been charged with OUI, it’s in your best interest to consult with skilled legal counsel immediately.

More Bad Moms

It may seem as though Ms. Daywalt took drunk driving to a new level, but she is not alone. The following mothers have also made some terrible choices that put themselves, and their children at risk.

  • A mom in New York is alleged to have beaten up her nanny when the nanny attempted to stop her from drunk driving with her toddler in the vehicle.
  • Shockingly, former Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) president Debra Oberlin was convicted of drunk driving in Florida.
  • Another PA mom was charged with vehicular homicide after she was involved in a drunk driving accident that resulted in the death of her 14 year old son.
  • An Arizona mom is alleged to have driven away with her infant son in his child safety seat…on the roof of the car. She was allegedly stoned at the time of the incident.

OUI Penalties in MA

If you find yourself in this situation, you may be wondering what potential penalties you are facing. Although other factors, including aggravating circumstances and past criminal history come into play, here are the possible penalties:

  • First offense: License suspension of up to 90 days, $500 to $5,000 fine, jail time of up to 2-and-a-half years.
  • Second offense: License suspension of up to two years, up to $10,000 fine, and jail time of up to 2-and-a-half years.
  • Third offense: License suspension of up to eight years, up to $15,000 fine, and prison time of up to five years.

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