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.

Burglaries Abound Throughout Massachusetts

As we drift ever closer to Thanksgiving, it would appear that some people are ready to name the pre-holiday weeks as Thanks! Taking!

In other words, there has been a rash of burglaries throughout the Commonwealth recently.

One rather enterprising culprit is believed to have cut a hole into the roof of a pharmacy in Swampscott, Massachusetts, thereafter stealing some prescription drugs.

It has not been revealed the nature of these drugs…whether they were sedatives for dealing with the holiday jitters, stimulants to help one work overtime in order to afford better Christmas gifts or, simply, a variety of goodies to sell on the street. One thing we do know, however, is that the burglary has left the local law enforcement baffled.

Police said they have no idea how the suspects scaled the walls of the building, but once they got on the roof, it is clear they used a power tool to saw a hole through the sheet metal. They then lowered themselves into the pharmacy. A second hole about the same size, believed to be the exit, was discovered in the wall of the store, according to police.

“Any time someone goes to that extreme you have to wonder just how dangerous they could be if you were to come in contact with them,” said a concerned customer.

Police also are investigating some similar burglaries that happened a couple of weeks ago in Lawrence. There, thieves broke into three businesses through a hole in the roof. Similar burglaries have been reported in Salem, Haverhill and Lynn.

But lest you get the idea that only north shore businesses are experiencing this new rash of “help yourself” intruders, we turn our attention a little more southward where recent home break-ins have inspired a tri-city investigation.

Several recent burglaries have been reported along the Winchester – Medford border. For example, there were at least five separate break-ins in Winchester between Tuesday, November 4th and Saturday, November 8th. A tri-city investigation is underway in the towns of Arlington, Medford and Winchester into the incidents, according to Winchester Police Detective Lt. James Pierce.

The incident on November 4th came to the attention of law enforcement when a North Gateway homeowner called for help around 8:18p.m. According to the report, someone had entered her home earlier while she was out running errands. Her husband, however, was at home. He heard someone rummaging around the house from the upstairs bedroom, but figured it was his wife who simply had not yet left. So, he did not call the police right away.

By the time he realized his error, the burglar had left.

Dirt from the intruder’s shoes was found on the bathroom floor. A lawn chair had apparently been placed under the kitchen window, where police believe the burglar gained access to the house.

On the same day, a South Gateway residence reported a break-in to police at about 11:40 p.m. According to the report, the homeowner found his rear window open after returning home from work.

“It appears that the perpetrator came and left through the same window from the back deck,” police wrote in their report. Fingerprints could be seen on the storm window. The break-in occurred between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., according to police.

Every room in the resident’s house appeared to have been entered and searched, police said. Several items were stolen, including assorted coins, Bacardi rum, a gold watch, another piece of gold and silver jewelry and a bottle of Valium.

Apparently, prescription drugs are as big in Winchester as they are in Swampscott.

And the list of Winchester area break-ins goes on. On November 6th, a burglary reported on Willowdale Road resident at about 10:12 p.m. Entry was gained by cutting a screen and pushing open an unlocked window. On November 8th, there were two more home invasions reported.

While the police continue to investigate the above burglaries, it may be comforting to know that, eventually, arrests do occur. For example, on November 13, Ross C., 24, of Fall River, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was arraigned in Taunton District Court in connection with a house burglary in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, dating back to last November.

The Defendant was already a guest of the Commonwealth at the Bristol County House of Correction for an unrelated breaking-and-entering charge in Dartmouth that happened in August this year.

The Defendant now finds himself charged with the older burglary, being charged with breaking and entering to commit a felony, larceny and destruction of property. Bail was set at $2,500. He had been scheduled to be released in January on the Dartmouth charges.

More than $125,000 in goods, mostly jewelry, was taken during the Rehoboth break-in. The victim in the case had recently asked Police Chief Stephen Enos to review the case again. He did. Upon investigating it further, Rehoboth police were able to link the Defendant through physical evidence to last year’s burglary, Enos said. Patrolmen William Walker and Jason Ferreira did the original investigation last November, while Police Officer Brian Ramos conducted a further examination when the “cold case” was reopened.

“Through good disciplined police work a year ago and good follow-up this year, we were able to come to a successful conclusion,” Enos said.

A series of burglaries in town over the past few months is still under investigation, and Enos says there may be other arrests.

“We’re looking at other cold cases to see if there are any links to this suspect,” he said.

Samuel’s take:

The musing from the Swampscott customer above is worth noting. Particularly in the case of a home invasion. It is perhaps lucky that the husband in Winchester thought the noises in the house were his wife if the alternative would have been to confront the intruder. To do so is dangerous if not deadly. Quietly calling the police is one thing…confrontation can easily change a burglary into a murder.

But then, that’s just common sense. My expertise is criminal justice…not common sense. The two are merely related…albeit sometimes distantly.

The laws regarding breaking and entering, however, do make sense. They are just complicated to wade through. For example, it makes sense that breaking into a home at night is treated differently from breaking into an unoccupied building during the day. But there are various other gradations which effect the crime charged and trigger different penalties. For example, having a weapon changes the prison time exposure as does the perceived intent of the burglar. For example, breaking into a building during the daytime with the intent to commit a misdemeanor can bring you a jail sentence of 6 months. If you did it at night and had the intent to commit a felony (like robbery, for example), the potential penalty is 20 years. Breaking into a home at night intending a felony wins you a potential life imprisonment or, merely, the mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.

Under the law, “nighttime” is the time between 1 hr. after sunset on one day and 1 hr. before sunrise on the next day.

Yes, the laws regarding breaking and entering are somewhat complex. The change of one element can measure the potential sentence by years.

Yes, the usual advice from this daily blog deserves repeating here – if you are looking at charges of breaking and entering/burglary, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney at the first possible moment.

No, I do not merely mean to do so when you have been charged.

As you can see, the investigations into these serious crimes often take months. Sometimes they take even longer. It is the same situation as with other crimes. If you have any hint that an investigation may be underway which could potentially lead to suspicion of your involvement in such an event…my advice is to consult an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.

Expensive? Maybe.

Worth the risk of somewhere between 10 years and life in state prison?

Hey, only you can decide that…!

Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, P.C. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a defense attorney in Boston over 18 years. He has published various articles relating to 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

The full articles of this story can be found at http://www.wickedlocal.com/winchester/news/police_and_fire/x466651686/Home-break-ins-inspire-tri-city-investigation , http://www1.whdh.com/news/articles/local/BO94642/ and http://www.thesunchronicle.com/articles/2008/11/14/news/3929615.txt

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