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.

Disorderly conduct charges are some of the most common criminal charges in MA, and nationwide. You can get charged with disorderly conduct for anything from shouting in public late at night to getting into a bar fight. Not surprisingly, alcohol is a common factor.

Fortunately, disorderly conduct charges are usually for relatively minor offenses…but a criminal record is a criminal record. If you made an error in judgment and got charged with disorderly conduct, can your charges be dropped? A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

As with any crime, it’s possible to get a disorderly conduct charge dropped, but your chances of success are highly dependent on multiple factors. Disorderly conduct, also referred to as disturbing the peace, covers a broad array of offenses and potentially criminal acts. Basically, in order for a charge of disorderly conduct to stick, the prosecution must prove that you recklessly or intentionally caused annoyance or alarm to the public.

There are some common defenses to disorderly conduct charges, including being a minor, acting in self defense, acting under duress, or mental incapacity. Even more important are the circumstances surrounding your offense. For instance, if a multiple-person bar fight broke out while you happened to be there—but you did not engage in the fight—and police arrested everyone on the scene, you could easily argue that you did not participate in the brawl.

Although a first time disorderly conduct conviction rarely equals jail time, it will give you a criminal record, and you may have to pay hefty fines. With the right attorney, getting disorderly conduct charges dropped is a very good possibility. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct or any other criminal offense.

What is Considered Disorderly Conduct in MA?

Under MA law, being a “disorderly person” is a criminal offense. Engaging in fighting, violent, or excessively noisy behavior, and creating offensive or dangerous conditions for others are all forms of disorderly conduct. You can even get charged with disorderly conduct for leaving trash in a public area. Public intoxication is not a crime, in and of itself, but you may be taken into custody if you are found to be excessively drunk in public. MA law further defines the crime of disorderly conduct to include:

  • prostitution;
  • annoying another person with offensive or threatening behavior;
  • engaging in lewd behavior of speech in a public area;
  • indecent exposure;
  • participating in a riot and refusing to disperse; and
  • disturbing the peace, which includes yelling outside late at night or being disruptive in a public setting.

What are the Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in MA?

If you are convicted of disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, you will likely only pay a fine for your first offense. However, subsequent convictions can be punishable by a fine and up to six months jail time. You may also receive probation as part of your sentencing. Beyond fines, probation, and possible jail time, a disorderly conduct charge may have collateral consequences. An employer may view this as a reflection of your tendency toward aggression or reckless behavior. The bottom line is, if you are facing disorderly conduct charges, it is in your best interest to seek legal counsel immediately. Continue reading

No criminal charges will be filed in Prince’s fentanyl overdose, which resulted in the star’s 2016 death. On Thursday, authorities announced that there was no evidence linking a specific person or persons to his fatal dose of the powerful drug. Even so, Michael Schulenberg, the Minnesota doctor who treated Prince in the weeks leading up to his death, has settled a $30,000 civil suit for an illegal prescription.

According to reports, Schulenberg had written Prince a prescription for Percocet under the name of his bodyguard, Kirk Johnson, in an effort to protect the musician’s privacy. It is, of course, illegal to write a prescription for one person knowing it is intended for another. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if a physician’s negligence caused you harm.

However, Schulenberg maintains his innocence, saying that he never prescribed drugs for someone else with the knowledge that they would be used by Prince. In a recent statement, the physician’s attorney said that he ”is not a target in any criminal inquiry and there have been no allegations made by the government that Dr. Schulenberg had any role in Prince’s death.”

Prince’s Famously Private Life Hindered the Investigation

Although Prince had purportedly been living a sober life for some time, he became addicted to painkillers following a hip injury. At the time of his death, dozens of painkillers were found at his home, most of them Vicodin counterfeits. As fentanyl is commonly used in counterfeit pills on the black market, it is very possible that Prince unknowingly consumed the dangerous drug. Even so, the prosecution believes that, due to Prince’s extremely private life, it is more likely than not that others assisted him in his efforts to obtain illegal pills.

The famously discreet musician didn’t own a cellphone, which further complicated the investigation into his death.  According to investigators, the people present at his home on the morning of his death “provided inconsistent and, at times, contradictory statements.” A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Less than a week before his death, on the return trip from his last concert, Prince’s plane made an emergency stop in Moline, Illinois where he was taken to the hospital for an opioid overdose. However, no further drug tests were performed, and he was released that same day. Following the incident on the plane, Dr. Schulenberg prescribed the singer with a drug used in the treatment of withdrawal from opiates.

Where is Prince’s Doctor Now?

In addition to paying $30,000 to settle the civil lawsuit, Dr. Schulenberg must undergo two years of “heightened compliance requirements for logging and reporting his prescriptions of controlled substances to the D.E.A.” Following Prince’s death, the doctor changed jobs. He is still working as a doctor in good standing in a different Minneapolis suburb.

Between 2015 and 2016, fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled. In fact, Minnesota saw a surge of black market fentanyl around the same time as Prince’s death. Shortly after, two more musicians, Tom Petty and Lil Peep both died from accidental overdoses involving the drug. Most of these overdoses occur due to illegal fentanyl pressed into pill form in dealers’ basements. Users often think they are buying oxycodone, but these fentanyl-laced pills can be up to 100 times stronger. Continue reading

This week, Massachusetts’ top court ruled that the state’s stun gun and taser ban is unconstitutional. According to the ruling, stun guns cannot be fully banned because they are classified as “arms,” and therefore, protected by the Second Amendment. However, they can be regulated.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court stated that:

“Having received guidance from the Supreme Court, we now conclude that stun guns are ‘arms’ within the protection of the Second Amendment. Therefore, under the Second Amendment, the possession of stun guns may be regulated, but not absolutely banned.” A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a firearms offense.

“Restrictions may be placed on the categories of persons who may possess them, licenses may be required for their possession, and those licensed to possess them may be barred from carrying them in sensitive places, such as schools. But the absolute prohibition in [state law] that bars all civilians from possessing or carrying stun guns, even in their home, is inconsistent with the Second Amendment,” wrote Chief Justice Ralph Gants.

New Regulations

To implement new restrictions on the use of stun guns, MA must go back to the drawing board, as the entire stun gun prohibition statute was made invalid. However, the new ruling won’t go into effect for 60 days, which gives lawmakers ample time to consider what regulations may be most effective. Regulations may include restrictions on who is permitted to own stun guns, restrictions on where they can be carried (for example, no schools or government buildings), and a license requirement for anyone who carries one.

“We believe the current restrictions on stun guns can be updated in a manner consistent with the high court’s ruling and Massachusetts’ common-sense firearm legislation,” said Jake Wark, Suffolk County spokesman. A Boston gun crimes attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of firearms offense.

Penalties for Firearms Offenses in MA

If you have been charged with any type of firearms offense, you may be facing the following penalties. Unless you satisfy the requirements of one of the statutory exemptions, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months in jail if you are convicted of any of the crimes below:

  • You knowingly possess a firearm without being present in your home or workplace, or having a license to carry (up to five years in prison);
  • You are carrying a loaded firearm while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs (up to two-and-a-half years in jail);
  • You are carrying a shotgun or rifle on a public way (up to two years in jail);
  • You are carrying a large capacity shotgun or rifle on a public way (up to 10 years in prison);
  • You remove, alter, or deface any type of identification number on a firearm (up to two-and-a-half years in jail).

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We have been talking about the tragic murder of Police Officer Sean Gannon and his reputed assassin, Thomas Latanowich (hereinafter, the “Defendant”).

Yesterday I shared with you a petition which is online to answer the latest call to penalize judges for the actions certain defendants take.

I think I made my position on that issue relatively clear. Now, let me explain why.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Judges, Powers And Criminal Sentences

First of all, let’s demystify how criminal cases end. There are three options. Either there is an agreement made between the parties, there is a trial or the case gets dismissed for a legal reason…such as there is no evidence that can be presented.

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Last Friday, we ended the week with the tragic story of a slain police officer. He was murdered in the line of duty. His alleged killer was a man with a criminal record “as long as your arm”. Maybe longer.

The murder took place in Yarmouth. The officer was the late Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon. The gent with the record is accused of killing Officer Gannon is Thomas Latanowich (hereinafter, the “Defendant”).

And now, not wasting a moment, the expected call for the quickie solution to a complicated problem has begun.

In short, “blame the judges!”

We have been here before, looking at this same situation. Only the details have changed alittle. This time, the victim was a very well thought of police officer and his police dog,

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If you base your knowledge of crime on what is presented by the media, and the Trump administration, it would be easy to assume that U.S. crime is at an all-time high. However, quite the opposite is true. Here are some surprising facts about current crime rates, nationwide.

Drop in Violent Crimes

The rate of violent crime has dropped dramatically over the past 25 years, following its peak in the early 1990s. According to the FBI’s annual crime report and a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) survey of more than 90,000 U.S. households, violent crime has fallen between 48 and 74 percent since 1993. That being said, the FBI did report a 20 percent rise in the murder rate between 2014 and 2016. Even so, overall violent crime is the lowest its been in decades, across the nation.

Drop in Property Crimes

Property crimes—which include burglary and motor vehicle theft—have also seen a significant decrease in recent years. Similar to the drop in violent crime, property crime in the U.S. has fallen between 48 and 66 percent between 1993 and 2016, and property crimes are much more common than those of a violent nature. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of criminal offense.

Pessimism

Public opinions about U.S. crime rarely lines up with actual statistics. For example, according to several polls, Americans commonly report that crime is up when data shows the exact opposite. In fact, according to 17 Gallup surveys taken since 1993, at least six-in-ten Americans said they believed there was more crime in that year compared to the previous year. Pew Research Center has experienced a similar outcome with their surveys. In a 2016 survey, more than half of registered voters said U.S. crime had worsened since 2008, even though it saw a rapid decline during that period.

Location, Location, Location

Crime varies widely based on geography. For example, while there were more than 600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Alaska and Nevada, violent crime rates in Vermont and New Hampshire were below 200 for every 100,000 people. And Boston is no exception. According to statistics and police reports, serious crimes in Boston have dropped by up to 22 percent since 2014. But for many residents who live in areas with a higher concentration of violent crime—such as Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury—the drop isn’t as noticeable. “We still have a lot of work to do,” said Police Commissioner William B. Evans, who went on to say that even the most violent neighborhoods are more peaceful than in the past. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime. Continue reading

In the wake of multiple mass shootings, many involving schools, the debate about increased gun control is going strong. Vermont may have had one of the most shocking responses, as it moved from one of the most lenient states on gun control to one of the strictest. Last week, VT Governor Phil Scott signed into law three bills that tighten gun restrictions across the state.

Vermont’s new laws raise the legal age to purchase firearms to 21, increase the state’s authority to remove guns from individuals who pose a threat, and ban high-capacity magazines. According to the Associated Press, Vermont’s new laws represent “the first significant gun ownership restrictions in state history.” In fact, a suspected school shooter may have already been prevented from purchasing a gun due to the new laws.

Expanded Background Checks

In addition to the restrictions above, Vermont’s new gun control laws also ensure that state background checks are more thorough, and prohibit gun ownership for individuals arrested, or even cited for, domestic assault. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

According to a report in the New York Times, immediately following the Parkland shooting, Governor Scott said that increased gun laws weren’t necessary. But a day after making this statement, a Vermont teen was arrested on suspicion that he was planning a school shooting. Jack Sawyer allegedly had a diary entitled “Journal of an Active Shooter” and had planned to orchestrate a mass shooting at Fair Haven Union High School. In fact, according to reports, Sawyer’s goal was to be responsible for the deadliest school shooting to date.

“This is not the time to do what’s easy,” said Governor Scott, “it’s time to do what’s right.”

Gun Control Laws in Massachusetts

How does Massachusetts compare to Vermont when it comes to gun control laws? For the past four years, MA has been considered one of the strictest gun control states in the nation. In 2014, the bay state gave more discretion to law enforcement to deny gun permits to “unsuitable” individuals. MA also places tight restrictions on assault weapons, and has participated in a nationwide campaign to prevent mentally ill individuals from obtaining firearms.

Have MA’s gun control laws helped? According to statistics, the answer is yes. MA’s gun death rate is about 70 percent less than the national average. And many of the guns used in fatal crimes actually come from other states. In 2014, the majority of guns used in MA crimes came from states with more lax gun control laws, including Georgia and Florida. Continue reading

The reports are still coming in from Yarmouth. The Boston Herald tells us about the Yarmouth K-9 police officer who was fatally shot and dog wounded. The shots allegedly came from a suspect who was hiding in the attic of a Marstons Mills home as officers searched the house yesterday afternoon, police said.

K-9 officer Sean Gannon, 32, later died at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.

The suspect, later identified as Thomas Latanowich, 29, and hereinafter, the “Defendant”, remained barricaded in the house for several hours in the Barnstable village as SWAT teams ringed the house. The Defendant was later taken into custody and was  arraigned on a murder charge today in Barnstable District Court.

The Defendant pleaded not guilty to murder and was held without bail. His next hearing will be June 26.

The court room was filled during the arraignment with police officers from Yarmouth and Barnstable Police Departments.

The Defendant entered the court with his head down. He made no

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Sometimes, even though we may not know all the facts, it is clear that some horrible tragedy has taken place. Probably one that has something to do with distorted perceptions of some kind. By some body.

Either that or pure evil. But then, I do not tend to believe in “pure evil” in such situations. I’ve seen too much.

But I digress (already).

In Fitchburg District Court, the allegations were presented in open court. The event was the arraignment of mother Shana Pedroso, 37, and the children’s father, Marvin Brito, 38. After the hearing, the two were ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing next Wednesday.

The case involves a 6-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother. The 6-year-old girl is dead.

The brother told police that he and his sister went out for a walk on Monday with their parents and two other kids. He said that when the parents left them, “he and his sister were attacked by bullies,” according to a police report.

The brother, according to the police, suffered “serious injuries and bruising to his face.” He also told officers his mother “had glued a wound on his neck closed with super glue,” and that his parents had told him not to call 911.

The sister was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive in the family’s home on Stoneybrook Road, where the children were home-schooled.

Police said they observed “extensive bruising of various ages over her entire body.” Her brother said she was unable to drink yesterday morning “and that his mother was mad.”

Police said that while booking Pedroso yesterday they found handwritten notes on her dated Monday saying “that the children were bad and beaten.”

According to the Boston Herald,  the mother is facing charges of assault and battery causing injury to her children and reckless endangerment of their lives. Dad was charged with permitting substantial injury to the children, in addition to reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors did not rule out further charges.

The Department of Children and Families has taken custody of the 9-year-old boy and said that the agency had no prior involvement with the family, adding in a statement, “The Department of Children and Families continues to assist law enforcement in the active investigation of this tragedy.”

Attorney Sam’s Take On The Case As It Is And Could Be

I suppose that the assumption here is that the mother’s note regarding the children being “bad and beaten” is a mere reflection of what happened. That the mother, perhaps unaware that any wrongdoing somehow was simply doing her job as a home schooling mother and keeping accurate notes of the day’s events.

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Just as defendants in a criminal case have certain rights, so do witnesses. The information you are obligated to provide when asked is dependent on the nature of the case, and who is doing the asking. For example, if an attorney or detective calls you hoping that you’ll speak about the case, you are not legally obligated to do so, unless you have been subpoenaed.

If you do receive a subpoena, you are required to show up for the meeting or trial, and to provide the requested information. You can, however, employ your fifth amendment right by refusing to answer anything that could incriminate you. Additionally, you can refuse to testify about any communications that you may have had with your spouse.

Perjury

If you testify, you are under oath. As a result, you are obligated to tell the truth. This is as true of a deposition as a trial in front of a grand jury. Any lies or misleading comments given during your testimony may be considered perjury. Perjury is the crime of lying under oath (“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”), and it is a felony offense. A conviction of perjury under federal law may carry up to five years in prison. In order to be considered perjury the act must:

  • Occur under oath
  • Include an actual statement (silence is not perjury)
  • Intentionally mislead the court
  • Be material to the case (a lie or exaggeration that has no bearing on the case is not likely to be considered perjury).

A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been called as a witness to a criminal case.

Victim Witnesses

If, in addition to being a witness to a crime you are also a victim of that crime, you have additional rights. Whereas a non-victim witness is not allowed to attend court proceedings related to the crime in question (other than one at which he/she is required to testify), victim witnesses have a right to be present at any public court proceedings. Victim witnesses also have the right to be informed of the defendant’s release or detention status, as well as the status of the ongoing investigation.

Legal Counsel

If you have been called as a witness to a criminal case, it is in your best interest to hire your own attorney. In addition to ensuring that you know your rights, an attorney can help you to avoid making incriminating testimony. When called as a witness, you do have rights, but you also have obligations. Determining what you have to do and what you can refuse, and how to not incriminate yourself, is much easier with legal counsel. Further, an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney can ensure that other attorneys follow the rules when questioning you. For example, attorneys are not permitted to “badger the witness” during testimony. Continue reading

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