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.

When it comes to most types of criminal misconduct, such as drunk driving, selling heroin, or spousal abuse, the act itself is a crime. Drunk driving is a criminal offense in MA, with specific penalties based on the circumstances surrounding the case. But what about behavior that only becomes criminal under certain circumstances? Take shouting, for example. On its own, shouting isn’t a criminal offense. But shouting on a residential street at three a.m. may be.

To keep communities calm and running smoothly, MA limits what people can do by imposing certain laws meant to “keep the peace.” When a person’s conduct jeopardizes that peace, his or her behavior may be prosecuted as disorderly conduct, a criminal offense. It’s no surprise that disorderly conduct charges are especially common when groups of rowdy, intoxicated people gather. Music concerts, outdoor festivals, and sporting events are infamous for resulting in at least a few charges of disorderly conduct. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Examples of Disorderly Conduct

Beginning in 1996, federal law made it illegal for any person convicted of domestic abuse to purchase a firearm. But in the more than 20 years since that law passed, countless mass shootings have been perpetrated by individuals with a history of spousal abuse. Recently, a man convicted by the Air Force of beating his wife and stepson opened fire at a church in rural Texas, killing 26 people. How did Devin P. Kelley obtain an AR-15 military-style rifle after a domestic abuse conviction? According to the Air Force, his conviction was never entered into the National Criminal Information Center database.

“I am deeply disturbed — in fact, outraged — that this domestic violence conviction was apparently never reported, and what concerns me equally is the possibility that it’s only one example of non-reporting by the Department of Defense,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, in a recent interview.

Massachusetts Laws on Guns and Domestic Violence

As of 2014, anyone convicted of a crime of domestic violence is prohibited from owning a firearm in Massachusetts. This is even true of misdemeanor convictions. In MA, domestic abuse includes any act of violence or abuse committed by one member of the household against another. Abuse includes:

  • causing or attempting to cause physical harm,
  • putting someone in fear of serious bodily harm, and
  • threatening or forcing another to have sexual relations.

And domestic abuse isn’t always physical. It can be emotional or sexual, and can even involve neglect or financial abuse. Domestic abuse crimes include:

  • assault,
  • violation of a 209A abuse prevention order (restraining order), and
  • intimidation of a witness.

What About Restraining Orders?

In MA, the issuance of a 209A abuse prevention order will automatically disqualify you from having or obtaining a License to Carry Firearms (LTC), or a Firearms Identification Card (FID). Regardless of whether the order is temporary, permanent, or an emergency order, you will have to surrender all firearms to the police. Once the order is lifted, you may be able to get your FID reinstated, and your firearms may be returned to you. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine your rights if a protective order has been issued against you.

Can I Seal a Domestic Abuse Conviction?

In addition to the prohibition on buying or possessing firearms, any type of domestic violence conviction can negatively impact your ability to get a job or find housing for years into the future. In some cases, you may be able to get your conviction sealed, effectively hiding it from background checks conducted by employers and landlords. Once your record is sealed, only law enforcement agencies will have access to your criminal record. In rare cases, your sealed record may be accessed if you apply for a firearms license.

If your conviction was for a misdemeanor, you must wait five years to have your record sealed. The waiting period for a felony is 10 years. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible to have your criminal record for domestic violence sealed from public view. Continue reading

The holidays are notoriously one of the worst times of year for drunk driving. From just before Thanksgiving to just after New Year’s Day, people attend more alcohol-laden parties than at any other time of year. We eat more, drink more, and are generally more merry. This is all good news, unless you decide to get behind the wheel of your car. Don’t sabotage your cheer and joy with an OUI this holiday season.

Tips to Avoid Becoming an OUI Statistic

The only surefire way to avoid getting an OUI is to never drink and drive. If you plan on drinking, designate a sober driver before heading out for the evening. If you drink more than planned and don’t have a driver, call a taxi, an Uber, or a friend. And if you decide to drive after one drink, heed the advice below.

  • Be sure that you’re under the legal limit. In MA, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 is above the legal limit. To help keep your BAC under this threshold, eat plenty of food while drinking, limit your consumption to no more than one drink per hour, and stop drinking long before you have to drive. Keep in mind, however, none of these suggestions guarantee that your BAC will remain under the legal limit. The only way to be certain is to stick to non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Use extra caution when driving. Safe driving practices are always important, but if you’ve had a drink, obeying traffic laws becomes crucial. Now is not the time to fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or attempt to beat a yellow light, for example. And of course, don’t text or talk on your cell phone. An MA OUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with an OUI.
  • Use an OUI app to reduce your risk. The following apps can help, but the only fail safe is to avoid drinking and driving altogether.
  • DrinkTracker: With this app, you can estimate your BAC based on the amount of alcohol you’ve consumed.
  • Intoxicheck: This app measures your reaction times, judgment, dexterity and memory through the use of multiple challenges. To get an accurate reading, the user must first perform the challenges sober to measure the differences after drinking.
  • BreathalEyes: Similar to the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test that police sometimes use to determine if a driver is intoxicated, this app tracks involuntary movements of the eyes.
  • BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer: Although not an app, this breathalyzer device attaches to your smartphone and works with an app through which you record how much you drink throughout the night.

If you do get pulled over, be calm, cooperative, and respectful. You do not need to submit to a field sobriety or breath test, but refusing a breath test will likely result in an automatic six month suspension of your driver’s license. If your charges are dismissed, however, the six month suspension may also disappear. A Boston OUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with an OUI. Continue reading

We’ve all been stuck behind a slow driver in the left lane. It can be frustrating, aggravating, even infuriating. But should it be illegal? Most states have addressed the issue of left lane “slowpokes” through legislation, signs, or fines. Proponents of these laws argue that driving slow in the left lane is as dangerous as speeding because it frustrates people to the point of road rage. Some states – including  Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia – have recently adopted tougher laws and enforcement to keep people out of the left lane, unless they are passing.

Some states, such as Missouri and Michigan are using a subtler approach to educate and inform. Missouri uses funny signs, such as “Camp in the Ozarks, not the left lane,” and Michigan troopers turn traffic stops into teaching opportunities with the state’s newly-launched “Southpaw Initiative.” Violators are stopped and educated about left lane driving and how it can disrupt the flow of traffic. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime during a routine traffic stop.

A Violation of Rights?

Although most of the violators in Michigan’s Southpaw Initiative were let off with just a warning (key word, most), critics are concerned about the possible implications. Charles E. Sydnor III, a Democrat representing Maryland’s Baltimore County, said he was recently pulled over in Virginia for a left-lane violation. He claims to have been preparing to make a left turn.

“Once you incentivize law enforcement to go after people in the left lane, it could be a pretext to pulling people over for no reason,” said Sydnor.

But despite the potential for such laws to encroach on our constitutional rights, states are increasingly likely to adopt left lane-related laws in order to reduce traffic congestion. Oklahoma’s new law, which went into effect last week, imposes a fine of more than $200 for drivers who hang out in the left lane too long. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a crime during a routine traffic stop.

“I believe it has caused some road rage incidents,” said Oklahoma State Trooper Dwight Durant, and spokesman for the state’s Highway Patrol. “It’s caused some collisions with property damage, personal injury and even death. We’re hopeful this new law will cut down on that.” OK has also installed 234 signs across the state warning drivers to avoid clogging the left lane. And effective July 1, Nevada and Virginia are carrying fines of up to $250 for the same.

How to Gently Nudge Left Lane Hogs Out of the Passing Lane

Due to the dangers of slow driving in the left lane, minimum speed limits are typically posted on highways. Anyone driving below the minimum speed can be ticketed and fined. These folks usually fall into one of four categories: distracted, “leaf peepers” or tourists, new drivers, and the elderly. If you encounter a slow driver, or someone who just won’t leave the left lane, avoid aggressive tactics to get them to move. Instead, safely pass the slow driver. If passing isn’t possible, gently urge the driver to speed up or move by following the advice below:

  • Keep your cool and have patience
  • Flick your headlights a few times
  • Calmly tap your horn

If they still won’t budge, take a few deep breaths and count your blessings. It could be worse. Continue reading

Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State University, died last year due to injuries sustained in a hazing incident. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which was supposed to be alcohol-free due to a previous suspension, led Piazza and several other pledges through a hazing ritual dubbed “the gauntlet.” Surveillance videos show a heavily-intoxicated Piazza falling several times throughout the night, including once down a flight of stairs. In total, 18 Beta Theta Pi members were criminally charged for their involvement in Piazza’s death.

In September, Judge Allen Sinclair threw out several charges against fraternity members, including some of the most serious. But last week, Pennsylvania District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled some of those charges, including those for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. “Today we refiled the previously dismissed charges for Tim Piazza’s unnecessary death,” said Parks Miller. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Piazza’s family believes that the reckless behavior of the defendants was directly responsible for the death of their son. According to their official statement, the fraternity brothers abandoned Piazza when they realized he was in “dire trouble.” In addition to seeking justice for their son, the family also wants to ensure that this type of behavior is stopped.

“Had it not been for the crimes committed that night, Tim would be with us today,” said Piazza’s family in the statement. “This is about bringing justice to a group of individuals who felt they were above the law and entitled to abuse and torture others because it was ‘tradition.’ This is also about justice for Tim and making a statement that this behavior is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue to harm others.”

Are Universities Responsible?

In one of recent history’s largest criminal cases against a fraternity, 18 members of Beta Theta Pi were charged in more than 1,000 counts. Piazza’s death has prompted a nationwide discussion about university oversight of fraternities. Penn State claims it was not responsible for enforcing the fraternity’s prohibition on alcohol, and has since banned the chapter from the campus.

“This is a huge challenge because we don’t own the houses, we don’t own the property, we aren’t the national organization governing fraternities,” said Penn State’s president, Eric Barron.

In addition to the aforementioned felony charges, other charges against fraternity members include reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence, furnishing alcohol, and hazing. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

University Crack Down

The Piazza case is just one of several deadly hazing rituals at U.S. colleges and universities in recent years. Deaths at Baruch College, Fresno State University and Northern Illinois University, among others, may have been chalked up to “boys being boys” in years past. But each of these hazing-related deaths has resulted in criminal charges. Institutions of higher learning are also cracking down on binge drinking and sexual assault, banning hundreds of fraternity chapters from operating on campus, and prohibiting freshman from pledging at all. Continue reading

If you are stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, you are guaranteed certain constitutional rights. For starters, you have the right to remain silent if you are placed under arrest. Police will generally inform you of this right by reading the “Miranda warning” at the time of your arrest. But your rights don’t stop there.

Fourth Amendment Rights

The fourth amendment to the U.S. constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizure. When the search and seizure pertains to a motor vehicle, police are generally required to have probable cause in order to make a traffic stop. If the officer cannot show that there existed a reasonable suspicion that a law was being broken, any evidence obtained during the traffic stop may be thrown out. This includes breath and blood test readings. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with OUI.

Fifth Amendment Rights

The fifth amendment includes the right to remain silent, which also happens to be the first right of the aforementioned Miranda warning. But the fifth amendment also provides several other rights and protections, including a prohibition on double jeopardy, and the right to not self-incriminate. Police are not required by law to read you the Miranda warning, but anything you say may be inadmissible in court if they fail to do so. That being said, anything you say before you are arrested is fair game.
Sixth Amendment Rights

The sixth amendment guarantees the assistance of legal counsel to anyone who is placed under arrest. Basically, this means that if you can’t afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. That being said, it is generally a good idea to hire private counsel, even if you qualify for a public defender. The cost of a good OUI attorney can save you lots of money, and heartache, in the long run.

OUI Penalties in MA

If you get convicted of OUI, the penalties will depend heavily on the particulars of your case, whether it’s a first offense, and prior criminal history. Penalties may include:

  • First offense: Fines between $500 and $5,000, one-year license suspension, and up to 2.5 years in jail.
  • Second offense: Fines between $600 and $10,000, two-year license suspension, up to 2.5 years in jail w/ mandatory minimum of 30 days.
  • Third offense: Fines between $1,000 and $15,000, eight-year license suspension, up to five years in prison w/ mandatory minimum of 150 days. This is a felony charge.
  • Fourth offense: Fines between $1,500 and $25,000, 10 year license suspension, up to five years in prison w/ mandatory minimum of one year. This is a felony charge.

If you’ve been charged with OUI or any type of crime, a MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights. Continue reading

Unfortunately, domestic violence is not uncommon in this country. Although the term domestic violence usually brings to mind the image of an abusive husband or boyfriend, this offense actually covers a broad range of criminal behavior. When a person subjects a parent or grandparent, child, cohabitant, or current or ex-partner to unlawful physical or emotional injuries, that person may be charged with domestic violence.

Domestic violence can involve physical abuse, such as when a parent strikes a child, and emotional abuse, such as when a husband forbids his wife to leave the house. Domestic violence – which may also be called domestic abuse, dating violence, and spousal abuse – occurs when one person in one of the aforementioned domestic relationships puts down, attempts to control, or physically harms the other.

Types of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence comes in many forms, and many victims experience multiple forms of abuse. Some of the most common types of domestic violence include:

  • Child endangerment is one lesser-known type of domestic violence. This form of abuse occurs when a caretaker places a child in a high-risk situation.
  • Elder abuse refers to the abuse or neglect of a person age 65 or older. In addition to physical and emotional abuse, this offense encompasses financial exploitation and abandonment.
  • Domestic sexual abuse can take many forms, from forcing a spouse to engage in unsafe sex practices to incest and rape of a child.
  • When an intimate partner, or a child caring for an elderly parent or grandparent controls the victim by withholding or stealing money, this type of financial abuse can be a form of domestic violence.
  • Stalking involves repeatedly harassing and threatening a victim, showing up at his or her home or place of employment, leaving harassing voicemails, and repeatedly sending unwanted emails or texts. A MA stalking defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with stalking or cyber-stalking.
  • Teen intimate partner abuse occurs with shocking frequency; up to 12 percent of all teens in grades 7 through 12 have been victims of physical abuse by their teen partner, and about 20 percent have been victims of psychological abuse. Teen intimate partner abuse dramatically increases the victim’s risk of developing risky behaviors, such as practicing unsafe sex, using drugs, eating disorders, and suicide. Further, teen victims of domestic violence are more likely to become victims again as adults.

Studies show that domestic violence affects up to five percent of adult relationships in this country alone. About two million of those victims are women. In 2003, domestic violence was involved in approximately 1,300 deaths. And about 50 percent of all women who are murdered are domestic violence victims.

Depending on the severity of the charge and whether the defendant has a criminal record, domestic violence can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense. If the victim is a child, a felony charge is more likely. If you are charged with domestic violence you may have to pay hefty fines, perform community service, attend anger management programs, and submit to a restraining order. You may also see time behind bars. A Boston domestic violence defense attorney can help you determine how to protect your rights if you’ve been charged with domestic violence or any other crime. Continue reading

If you have been convicted of a crime, your conviction is a public record. What does that mean? Well, for starters, potential employers and landlords can do a criminal background search, and they may deny you employment or housing when they see the conviction. What many people don’t know, however, is that anyone can walk into a court clerk’s office and perform a criminal record search on a particular individual.

And it’s getting even easier than that. In the past, a person had to physically walk into a court clerk’s office to perform such a search. Since the birth of the internet, however, any average Joe can use the services of an online criminal background search firm while sitting in his pajamas sipping coffee. Private, for-profit companies gather conviction records from myriad sources, then use them to create databases which can be accessed by any paying customer with a curiosity about someone’s record, or lack thereof.

So, What Shows Up?

If someone performs a criminal background check on an individual, the following information may be revealed:

  • Warrants
  • Arrests
  • Misdemeanor convictions
  • Felony convictions
  • Court records, including judgments, dockets, and orders
  • Sex offenses
  • Records of incarceration

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), civil suits and arrests will not show up in a criminal background search after the passing of seven years. However, criminal convictions may remain on the report indefinitely. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a  crime.

Can My Record be Sealed?

The only way a criminal record can be hidden from public view is through the process of expungement, also known as sealing. When a judge “seals” a criminal conviction, not only is the record no longer public, the individual can answer “No” on any application asking if they have ever been convicted of a crime. That being said, certain individuals and organizations – such as prosecutors and law enforcement agencies – can still view expunged records. And expungement isn’t always an option.

In order to have your record sealed, you and your offense must meet certain requirements. In most cases, it must have been your first offense, a relatively minor offense, you must have completed your sentence, and a period of time must have passed since completing your sentence. To qualify for expungement, your case must meet one of the requirements below:

  • Your case was dismissed (you were found not guilty, or the case ended without a conviction).
  • Five years have passed since you finished serving your sentence for a misdemeanor offense, and you have not re-offended.
  • 10 years have passed since you finished serving your sentence for a felony offense, you have not re-offended, and your conviction was not for “crimes” against the public, violations of the State Ethics Act, certain sex offenses, and certain firearms offenses
  • Your conviction was for first-offense misdemeanor drug possession (at the judge’s discretion, these cases may be sealed immediately)

A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for expungement. Continue reading

If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in MA you might be wondering what penalties you face, and if you even need a lawyer. After all, shoplifting charges are relatively minor, right? Well, not exactly. For starters, the penalties you face are largely dependent on the severity of your charges and prior criminal history; you could be looking at up to two-and-a-half years behind bars. Secondly, any criminal conviction on your record – even shoplifting – can have serious consequences for years into the future.

What is Shoplifting?

Walking into a store, putting an item in your purse, and walking out without paying for it is an obvious example of shoplifting. But shoplifting can take other forms as well. Simply concealing merchandise while in the store can be considered shoplifting. Altering or swapping price tags, or placing merchandise in different containers is also a form of shoplifting. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with shoplifting or any other crime.

If a merchant suspects you of shoplifting, you can be detained at the store for a reasonable amount of time. When law enforcement arrives, you can be arrested without a warrant if the officer(s) have probable cause to do so.

Shoplifting Penalties

If convicted of shoplifting in MA, you may be facing fines, jail time, and a possible civil suit. Merchants can sue shoplifters to recover damages for stolen goods. Penalties vary based on the value of goods stolen and other factors. If you have been charged with shoplifting, the following penalties may apply to you:

  • Goods valued at less than $100: If you have no prior offenses, you will likely face a fine of up to $250.
  • Goods valued at up to $100: If you have one prior offense, you will likely face a fine of up to $500.
  • Goods valued at up to $100: If you have two prior offenses, you will likely face a fine of up to $500, and up to two years in jail.
  • Goods valued at $100 or more: A fine of up to $1,000, and up to two-and-a-half years in jail.

In addition to the above criminal penalties, you may face civil damages of up to $500, plus actual damages.

Do I Qualify for a Pretrial Diversion Program?

Maybe you’re innocent. Maybe you did shoplift the item(s) you are charged with shoplifting, but you now realize you made a mistake. In either case, an experienced MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights. Fortunately, MA offers something called a pretrial diversion program for some people who are accused of low-level crimes. If you qualify for a pretrial diversion program, you might have to do things like complete community service and make restitution, but you will not end up with a criminal record. Once you have fulfilled the requirements of the program, the charges will be dropped. A plea bargain may be an option if a diversion program is not. This occurs when a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Continue reading

On September 14, an 18-year-old college student from Roswell, Georgia was killed during a hazing incident at Louisiana State University. Maxwell Gruver died of complications related to acute alcohol intoxication while trying to join Phi Delta Theta. Students hoping to be accepted into a particular fraternity or sorority are called pledges. When pledging a fraternity or sorority, the student will likely have to attend mandatory meetings, social activities, and other events. Hazing, however, should not be a requirement.

Hazing is frowned upon by most colleges and universities, and in many cases, it’s criminal. Hazing is an action or situation intended to make the pledge uncomfortable. It is generally reckless, and can endanger the student’s mental or physical health. In the case above, witnesses claim that Gruver was made to drink at least 10 “pulls” of hard liquor on the evening before his death. According to officials, the freshman’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.495 percent, more than six times Louisiana’s legal limit for driving.

Felony Negligent Homicide Charge

Ten people were arrested for misdemeanor hazing that lead to Gruver’s death. One of those arrested, Patrick Forde, is from Westwood, Massachusetts. Another defendant, Matthew Alexander Naquin, is facing a felony negligent homicide charge for his role in Gruver’s death. According to witnesses, Naquin disliked Gruver. He targeted the young pledge, forcing him to drink more than everyone else.

The morning after the hazing incident, fraternity members found Gruver lying on a couch, and were unsure if he was breathing. He was rushed to Baton Route hospital, where he later died. All of the 10 suspects, ages 18 to 21, were Phi Delta Theta members. The LSU chapter has been closed by the fraternity’s national office.

‘‘The ramifications of hazing can be devastating,’’ said LSU President F. King Alexander. ‘‘Maxwell Gruver’s family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences – all due to a series of poor decisions.’’ A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been charged with hazing, or any other criminal offense.

Criminal Penalties for Hazing

Many universities have policies specifically banning hazing. Further, the dangerous ritual can result in criminal penalties, including up to 30 days in jail. And negligent homicide can carry a penalty of five years in prison. Despite the consequences, some fraternity and sorority chapters still engage in hazing. In February, a Penn State student was killed in an alcohol-related hazing incident involving the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. To date, 14 of that fraternity’s members are facing criminal charges in that student’s death.

Investigators working on the LSU hazing case are studying text messages, and have learned of possible videos. They have also gathered additional evidence, including a bag containing a “pledge test.” A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with hazing, or any other crime. Continue reading

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