In 2012, former drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan was caught tampering with evidence and falsifying test results in thousands of criminal drug cases. For her crime, Dookhan spent three years behind bars. But what about the falsified tests? More than 24,000 drug convictions may have been involved in the tampering scandal. What happens to those individuals? On Wednesday the highest court in Massachusetts rejected a proposal to dismiss all 24,000 convictions, with the exception of those directly impacted by Dookhan’s crime.
As many defendants continue to wait for an opportunity to challenge their convictions, this week the Supreme Judicial Court ruled against ordering the dismissal of all 24,000 cases. In addition, the court declined the prosecutors’ recommendation to take no new action. In lieu of a blanket dismissal, the high court is implementing a three-phase system to handle the cases. If you have been charged with a drug crime, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.
So, what does the three-phase system consist of? Prosecutors were ordered on Wednesday to dismiss all cases they “would not or could not re-prosecute if a new trial were ordered.” For low-income defendants wanting new trials or pleas, the court ordered that public defenders be assigned. Further, the court requested the issuance of new notices for cases not being dismissed.
Acknowledging the burden to public defenders, prosecutors and courts, Chief Justice Ralph Grants wrote the following statement in the ruling: “But we also recognize that Dookhan’s misconduct at the Hinton lab has substantially burdened the due process rights of many thousands of defendants whose convictions rested on her tainted drug analysis and who, even if they have served their sentences, continue to suffer the collateral consequences arising from those convictions.”
It’s a Win Win
According to Matt Segal, legal director of the ACLU in Massachusetts, the ruling is a success. District attorneys have 90 days to dismiss cases that should not be re-prosecuted. Sufficient evidence to re-prosecute will be required for any cases not dismissed.“We expect that in 90 days we will see that the DAs agree to dismiss thousands of cases,” said Segal. If you are facing drug charges, contact a MA defense lawyer today.
An Overwhelming Burden?
The determination about how to proceed with each case will come down to the quality of available evidence, existence and availability of witnesses, and the seriousness of the case. According to the court, if large numbers of cases are not dismissed, the demand on public defenders may negatively impact other defendants in need of their representation. This could, in turn, result in constitutional violations for those denied a right to counsel. The only solution to this type of problem would be to dismiss all challenged drug convictions.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Premier Criminal Defense Law Firm
If you have been charged with a drug offense, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with crimes for more than 50 years. Our defense team has an outstanding record of getting clients’ charges reduced, or dropped altogether. If you are facing charges for any type of criminal offense, from OUI to assault, our experienced, knowledgeable attorneys can help. We will analyze the details of your case and position you for the best possible outcome. At Altman & Altman, LLP we know that even good people make mistakes. Don’t let a mistake ruin your life. It is our goal to protect your rights, your reputation, and your freedom. If you have been charged with a crime, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.