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.

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

The term obstruction of justice encompasses myriad criminal charges that may be filed when a person impedes or “obstructs” the criminal investigation process. What exactly does that mean? The following case provides one example. In 2014, Khairullozhon Matanov was questioned by police after the Boston Marathon bombing. Although he was friends with the accused bombers, he lied to the police about his connection to the two men. As such, he was accused of obstructing a government police probe.

More recently, talk of obstruction of justice has been in the news following President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. More than a few people are speculating that the termination was intended to impede investigations into Trump’s connections with Russia. If this is true, Comey’s termination may have been an attempt to obstruct justice. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with this crime.

The following statement is taken from the Federal obstruction statutes and intentionally covers a vast array of behaviors. The statute prohibits any attempt to “influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress.”

Common Types of Obstruction of Justice

Not all obstruction of justice charges are related to high-profile criminal cases and the President of the United States. Let’s talk about regular people…the rest of us. What are some more common types of obstruction of justice?

  • Lying to law enforcement. Don’t confuse your right to refuse to answer questions and to request a lawyer with permission to lie to police. Making false statements is not only a form of obstruction of justice, it’s a felony. If you intentionally lie to a federal law enforcement agent while being questioned, you could find yourself behind bars for up to five years.
  • Destroying or hiding evidence. The act of altering, concealing, or destroying evidence is a felony that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Evidence can be a weapon, a document…even an email.
  • Common law obstruction. This charge encompasses a more general spectrum of obstructive acts, including persuading a witness not to testify in a criminal case. A MA defense lawyer can help position you for the most favorable outcome if you have been charged with obstruction of justice.

As with most criminal charges, the underlying offense and past criminal history factor heavily when considering penalties for a conviction of obstruction of justice. For example, in the Manatov case discussed above, each of his three obstruction charges carried a potential of eight years in prison because they impeded an investigation into terrorism. Continue reading

On Monday, four men who were initially charged with murder pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for the 2013 hazing death of would-be fraternity brother, Chun Hsien Deng. The 18-year-old student died at a weekend retreat for potential Baruch College members of the Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity.

In December 2013, Deng traveled to a rental house in the Poconos for a hazing ritual that – according to a statement by Baruch College – would never have been allowed on campus. In the early morning hours, Deng was forced to strap a heavily-weighted backpack to his back, put on a blindfold, and follow other pledges through the so-called “glass ceiling,” a symbol of the Asian-American plight. According to a grand jury report, Deng became defiant, speaking out of turn and kicking one of the fraternity members. In response, the fraternity members became physically aggressive with their pledge, knocking him to the ground and, eventually, rendering him unconscious.

When the fraternity members realized Deng had lost consciousness, they carried him inside, laid him in front of a fireplace, and attempted to revive him. When his breathing became labored, instead of calling for medical help, they started googling phrases such as “concussion can’t wake up,” and even called a national fraternity official, who advised them to hide anything bearing the fraternity’s symbol.

A recent study found that many school zones, nationwide, have higher-than-average crime rates. Boston is no exception. But which school zone in Boston is considered the most dangerous? That would be the Roxbury-area school zone surrounding the James P. Timilty Middle School. The zone, which forms a 300-foot radius around the school, was the scene of more than 280 crimes from 2015 to 2017, according to research conducted by Safe Home, a security company that compiles crime data from Boston and several other US cities.

It’s not all bad news; crime in Boston school zones is on the decline. But certain areas are experiencing a disproportionate level of crime around schools. The Boston area’s top five “dangerous school zones” racked up a total of 149 assaults, 147 drug or alcohol crimes, 138 robberies, and 88 gun crimes, all within feet of elementary, middle, and high schools. In addition to Boston, Safe Home analyzed school zone crime in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Louisiana, New York City, and Seattle. A MA defense lawyer can help you get your life back on track if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Is My Kid’s School Zone on the List?

The school zones in Boston with the highest rates of crime are:

  • James P. Timilty Middle School
  • Codman Academy Charter School (Upper)
  • Holy Name Parish School
  • Dearborn STEM Academy
  • Jeremiah E. Burke High School
  • Boston University
  • Kennedy Day School
  • Pauline A Shaw Elementary School
  • William Monroe Trotter
  • Holmes Elementary School

Enhanced Sentencing for Crimes Committed in School Zones

To compile this information, Safe Home gathered crime data from the U.S. City Open Data Census and cross-referenced it with the geolocations of associated school zones. This high incidence of crime within school zones is even more perplexing given the enhanced penalties for committing crimes within 300 feet of a school. In MA, for example, a person convicted of distributing illicit drugs in a school zone is subject to additional penalties than if the act occurred in a non-school zone. This is even true if the school is not in session. The enhanced sentence for school zone drug crimes in MA is not less than 2.5 years, and up to 15 years in prison, and it carries a fine of up to $10,000.

To be convicted of a “school zone” crime, the offense must have taken place:

  • Within 300 feet of a school.
  • Between the hours of 5:00 am and midnight.
  • Within 100 feet of a playground or public park.

Although Boston’s hardest-hit school zones are experiencing a concerning level of criminal activity, it pales in comparison to the other cities in the study. In fact, one school zone in Seattle racked up more than 3,000 crimes in 2016 alone. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime in a school zone. Continue reading

Five teens have been arrested and are facing charges for statutory rape in a case involving a single victim, a 16-year-old girl. The South Haven, Michigan teens, all 17 or 18 years of age, attend the same high school as the victim. The severity of the case has brought a lot of attention, but the fact that the defendants are all on the school’s varsity basketball team has made this case national news.

Another student informed a school counselor about the encounters between the five defendants and the victim. The police were notified following the student’s report, and each of the five teens was arraigned and released on $1,000 bond. While they await trial or the resolution of their charges, the teens have been permitted to return to classes. However, they have been suspended from the basketball team. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of sex offense.

What is Statutory Rape?

As details of this case are still limited, it is not known whether the acts were committed with the victim’s consent, or under coercion or force. But statutory rape doesn’t require force. Even consensual sex is a crime, if one of the participants is under age. If, however, force or coercion was used, the charges may be elevated to a more serious charge with more serious penalties and punishments. In MA, statutory rape is committed if a person engages in sexual acts with someone under the age of 16. However, in MA, statutory rape is charged as “rape of a child,” and carries stiff penalties, along with the need to register as a sex offender.

What are the Penalties for Statutory Rape?

Penalties for statutory rape vary widely. For example, the punishment for a 17-year-old who has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend is likely to be much less severe than for a 25-year-old man who has sex with a 12-year-old. Punishments can range from no jail time to life in prison. Sexual acts against a child are punished more severely if:

  • The child is under age 12 and the defendant is five or more years older.
  • The child is between 12 and 16 years of age and the defendant is ten or more years older.
  • The defendant is a doctor, teacher, clergy member, or social worker.

It is even illegal for a child under the age of 16 to have sexual intercourse with another child under that age. Therefore, in the case of a 14 and 15-year-old couple who choose to have sexual intercourse, both could be charged with a crime. Many states have something called a “Romeo and Juliet law” that holds that consensual sex with an underage individual is not considered statutory rape unless there is a certain age difference between the parties. But MA has not adopted the Romeo and Juliet law. So, as it stands, sexual intercourse with someone under age 16, regardless of the defendant’s age, is a crime. In addition to possible jail or prison time and fines, anyone convicted of a sex crime in MA must register as a sex offender. A MA defense attorney can help if you’ve been charged with rape of a child for a consensual relationship with someone close to your age. Continue reading

Unfortunately, the process of being arrested isn’t always as straightforward as it appears in the movies. In many cases, individuals aren’t even aware they are under arrest. For this reason, multiple defenses exist if you’ve been charged with resisting arrest. Read on for more information about this misdemeanor offense, and what penalties you may be facing if you’ve been charged.

In MA, resisting arrest is a crime, but it is rarely the only charge a person faces. In order for a person to be charged with resisting arrest, law enforcement must have had probable cause that another crime was being committed. In certain situations, however, a person who was not committing a crime can be charged with resisting arrest. This is common in domestic disputes, when a family member attempts to prevent law enforcement from making an arrest. When this happens, the individual will likely be charged with an additional crime, such as disorderly conduct.

The following is from the Massachusetts statute about resisting arrest:

It shall not be a defense to a prosecution under this section that the police officer was attempting to make an arrest which was unlawful, if he was acting under color of his official authority, and in attempting to make the arrest he was not resorting to unreasonable or excessive force giving rise to the right of self-defense. A police officer acts under the color of his official authority when, in the regular course of assigned duties, he is called upon to make, and does make, a judgment in good faith based upon surrounding facts and circumstances that an arrest should be made by him.

Crimes commonly associated with resisting arrest charges include OUI, assault and battery, domestic violence, drug crimes, and theft crimes. In MA, it is against the law to stop, or attempt to stop, law enforcement from acting within their authority by use of physical force, threats, or anything that creates the risk of bodily harm or death.

When is it Not a Crime?

Not all forms of resistance involving law enforcement are considered resisting arrest, however. The following scenarios should not result in criminal charges. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and if the officer believes you were resisting arrest, you may still find yourself in court. If this happens to you, a skilled Boston defense lawyer can help position you for the most favorable outcome. A person is not guilty of resisting arrest in certain situations, including:

  • When resisting being frisked.
  • When requesting a female officer to do a pat down.
  • If the person was unaware that he or she was preventing an arrest.
  • If the person was unaware that an undercover officer was, in fact, a police officer.
  • If an unreasonable amount of force was used to detain the person being arrested.

What are the Penalties?

As a misdemeanor offense, resisting arrest does not carry a prison sentence. You could, however, see the inside of a jail cell. If convicted of this crime, you could face up to two-and-a-half years in jail and a $500 fine. Of course, you will also receive a penalty for the underlying offense that you were being arrested for in the first place. Even if the charges for the other offense are dropped, you can still be punished for resisting arrest. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with this misdemeanor offense. Continue reading

If you’ve been convicted of a criminal offense in the past, you have a criminal record. It goes without saying that having a criminal record isn’t ideal; it can negatively impact your ability to get a job, housing, and even student loans for years into the future. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to seal your record in MA. Read on for more information about how to seal a criminal record, what that means, and if you qualify.

In 2012, the Criminal Offender Record (CORI) reform went into effect in MA. This is especially good news for people who were charged with a crime, but for whom the charges were dismissed. If this is you, CORI greatly improves your chances of getting your record sealed. Whether your charges were dismissed from the start, or after probation, you may qualify.

If you were convicted of the charge, you’re not out of luck yet. However, convictions typically require the passage of a certain amount of time before you are eligible to petition the court to seal your record. If the conviction was for a felony, CORI requires a full 15 years to pass before your record is eligible to be sealed. But there are some exceptions to that rule. In MA, the judge has the authority to seal a felony record before the 15 years are up. The judge will take into account any hardships you may be experiencing as a result of the open record. This is where having a skilled Boston defense attorney is essential.

What Types of Criminal Records Can be Sealed in MA?

Many factors come into play when a judge is determining whether or not your record can be sealed. These include the particulars of your offense, and past criminal history, among other factors. However, some of the criminal charges that may be eligible include:

  • Assault
  • Possession of drugs
  • Property crimes, such as burglary and arson
  • Weapons charges
  • Fraud

A MA defense attorney can review your criminal record to ensure that the information within is accurate before petitioning the court to seal the record. Sealing a criminal record is a complex process that requires the help of legal counsel with extensive experience in this particular area of the law.

What Does Sealing a Record Actually Do?

Sealing does not mean erasing. The record still exists, but it isn’t accessible by most people, employers, or entities. Even better, when you apply for a job, housing, or a loan, you can legally answer that you have never been convicted of a crime. You can also state that you’ve never been charged or arrested for a crime. Once your record is sealed, the MA sealing statute allows you to legally answer in this way. Unfortunately, there are a few employers that are still permitted to access sealed records. These are:

  • The Department of Early Education and Care
  • The Department of Children and Families
  • The Department of Youth Services
  • Police and probation agencies
  • Courts
  • Prosecutors’ offices

Continue reading

If you have been placed on probation for committing a criminal offense, you will be released back into the community…but under multiple conditions and restrictions. For instance, you may be required to undergo regular drug testing, electronic monitoring, and meetings with a probation officer. Your conditions will depend largely on the underlying offense, but one thing applies across the board to everyone on probation – intentionally violating your probation carries serious consequences.

If you fail to comply with the conditions of your probation, the penalties can range from a warning to imprisonment. Warnings are usually reserved for minor, technical offenses. In some instances, an individual may violate his or her probation unintentionally. If the unintentional violation is minor, the response may be little more than a slap on the wrist. But this is the exception, not the rule. The potential penalties below illustrate the importance of adhering to the restrictions of your probation.

  • Probation hearing: If you have received a warning for a similar violation in the past, or your violation is more serious, you may be ordered to appear at a probation hearing. At this hearing, the judge will determine whether you violated the terms of your probation and, if so, what your penalty should be.
  • Additional probation restrictions: If the judge finds you to be in violation of your probation, he or she has the option of extending the length of your probation, or adding additional restrictions to your probation. In doing so, the judge will consider the underlying offense, the type of violation(s), and past violations / criminal history.
  • Fines: The judge may also order you to pay fines in addition to, or in lieu of, extended or “beefed up” probation. This may occur even if you’ve already paid hefty fines.
  • Time behind bars: You may be sentenced to jail time or imprisonment if the severity of your underlying offense and / or the violation deem it necessary. Your jail sentence may be even longer than it would have been if you hadn’t been granted probation in the first place.

Of course, as with criminal convictions, probation terms and revocation of probation can be appealed. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you find yourself in this situation.

Common Probation Violations

There are many ways of violating your probation. Some violations are minor, while others are even more serious than the original offense. Although each case is different, the examples below are among the most common reasons individuals find themselves staring in the face of a probation violation.

  • Failing to appear for a scheduled court appearance.
  • Failing to report to your probation officer at a schedule time and / or place.
  • Failing to pay court ordered fines or restitution (payment to victims).
  • Traveling out of state without your probation officer’s permission.
  • Visiting prohibited places or people.
  • Drug possession or use.
  • Selling illegal drugs.
  • Committing a criminal offense.
  • Getting arrested, whether for a criminal or a non-criminal offense.

If you have violated the terms of your probation, a MA defense attorney can help you get yourself back on track. Continue reading

On Tuesday, five new trauma response teams are launching in an effort to help residents of Boston’s high-crime neighborhoods cope with violence. According to Mayor Martin Walsh, this initiative was created in response to residents’ concerns. The effort, which will consist of health centers and community organizations, will be led by Walsh and the Boston Public Health Commission.

Outreach organizations will be set up in Roxbury’s Whittier Street Health Center, Jamaica Plain’s Tree of Life, the Four Corners Actions Coalition of Dorchester, and North Suffolk Mental Health of East Boston. In addition, a mobile vendor will host a 24-hour crisis hotline.

“We spent May to August of last year hosting 14 community listening sessions and heard from over 350 residents and providers,” said Catherine Fine, the Division of Violence Prevention director. “We asked them what they’d like to see in their neighborhoods following a traumatic event. And this is what we heard they wanted.”

Even when a traumatic event occurred in the distant past, teams will provide assistance if requested. “Someone may, following an event, feel like they don’t want to connect to someone,” said Fine. “And they can take support or access teams at any time, a year later, two years later.”

What is a Traumatic Event?

For the purpose of this new initiative, a traumatic event includes gun-related homicides, shootings that affect anyone under age 18 or multiple victims, and any traumatic event involving a child. According to Fine, in addition to providing assistance to victims, the initiative aims to inform residents that just because an area has a high crime rate, criminal activity doesn’t go unnoticed. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense.

“We want community members to know the city cares,” said Fine. “We want to connect with residents to let them know there are services that are available.” Those involved with the initiative will inform the community of ongoing efforts through community meetings, door-to-door informational campaigns, and healing sessions. “The fact that we are sort of knitting together more of a system connecting these entities together is unique,” she said. “We hope it’s the start of a very positive model.”

Gang Violence in Boston Neighborhoods

Although this new initiative is aimed at helping residents cope with any type of crime-related traumatic event, much of the violent crime in the Boston area is due to gang activity. One of the most notorious gangs in Boston is the MS-13, a violent gang whose motto is “mata, viola, controla’’ — kill, rape, control.

MS-13 targets public high school students, mostly immigrants, and often recruits kids as young as 14 years old. They pull from many Boston neighborhoods, but Chelsea, East Boston, and Everett are typically hardest hit. “Mentors” assist them throughout the initiation process, which usually involves a combination of illegal drug activity, theft, rape and other forms of violent crime. A MA defense attorney can help if your child has gotten caught up in gang activity. Continue reading

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), more than 20,000 drug cases are on their way to dismissal following the criminal actions of Annie Dookhan, a former MA state chemist. In 2013, Dookhan pleaded guilty to 27 counts, including tampering with evidence, perjury, and obstruction of justice. The disgraced chemist was called Superwoman by her co-workers because she completed tasks so quickly, but there was a criminal element to her speed. Dookhan was found to have returned positive results for drugs she never even tested. She also forged signatures and mishandled samples.

Thousands of drug convictions have been tainted by Dookhan’s actions. In January, district attorneys were ordered to complete a monumental task; they needed to compile lists of individuals who – they believed – could be re-prosecuted, and another list of those whose cases should be dismissed. On Tuesday, lawyers counted 21,587 cases likely to be dismissed. Only a few hundred will be re-prosecuted.

“From numbers that we’re initially getting, about 95 percent of these tainted drug convictions will be dismissed,” said Carl Williams, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Massachusetts. “And that is a victory for regular people, for people who’ve been tarnished by these drug convictions.”

More than 7,800 cases in Suffolk County, which encompasses Boston, are expected to be dismissed. For many of these people, the damage is irreversible; those locked up for months or years have lost jobs, housing, and relationships. Families have suffered. Some people have even been deported. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if your life was negatively impacted by Dookhan’s negligence and criminal behavior.

Wrongful Convictions

Compensating people for wrongful convictions is not only the right thing to do, it shows the public that the government is willing to make amends for its mistakes. The following statement is taken from the website of the Innocence Project, an organization that seeks to exonerate the wrongfully convicted: “Conceding that no system is perfect, the government’s public recognition of the harm inflicted upon a wrongfully convicted person helps to foster his healing process, while assuring the public that the government – regardless of fault – is willing to take ownership of its wrongs or errors.”

Most states, including Massachusetts, have a compensation statute, which compensates a wrongfully-convicted person for each year spent behind bars. When the compensation amounts were last updated under George W. Bush, the recommended amount was up to $50,000 per year. Based on inflation, that amount should now be approximately $63,000 per year. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been wrongfully convicted of a crime.

As a result of her actions, Dookhan was sentenced to three to five years imprisonment, and she was granted parole in 2016. Was justice served? Thousands of people’s lives have changed, and will continue to change as a result of the former chemist’s actions. Continue reading

Chicago’s DePaul University recently made headlines for something its administration likely hopes will soon be forgotten. Four of the university’s students have been arrested for attempting to sell over 100 Xanax pills to undercover officers. The transactions, which took place on four separate occasions over the last few weeks, are a stark reminder of the reality of prescription drug abuse on college campuses, and throughout the country.

Xanax is one of a number of commonly abused prescription drugs, and it doesn’t discriminate. Like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Valium, the addictive qualities of Xanax destroy the lives of the young and old, rich and poor, male and female, white and black, alike. All of these drugs are legal when obtained with a valid prescription from a licensed medical doctor, but that doesn’t prevent legal recipients of highly-addictive prescription drugs from becoming dependent on them.

Despite the addictive nature of many prescription drugs, abuse is treated as a crime. It is illegal to purchase, sell, or even possess these medications without a valid prescription. Like heroin and cocaine, prescription drugs are controlled substances, and they are federally regulated like their “street drug” counterparts. As such, getting caught selling, or illegally purchasing or possessing these drugs comes with serious consequences. A MA criminal defense attorney can help if you are facing drug charges.

What is the Penalty for Possession of Illegal Prescription Drugs in MA?

As with most criminal offenses, the penalty for possession of illegal prescription drugs is largely dependent on the nature of the offense and prior criminal history. If, for example, you have no criminal history and you are caught with a small amount of an illegally-acquired prescription drug intended for personal use, your penalty will likely not be too severe. Chances are, you will be charged with a misdemeanor offense, or less. If, on the other hand, you have previously been convicted of distribution of an illegal substance and you are caught manufacturing illegal prescription drugs, the penalty will be much more severe. A Boston drug crimes defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing charges for selling prescription drugs.

Each type of illegal drug falls into a specific category, and most of the dangerous (addictive) prescription drugs are classified as Class B or Class C. For both classes of drug, the penalty for possession is up to one year in jail. Penalties increase for second and subsequent offenses, and if there was an intent to distribute. Whatever the circumstances of your case, it is crucial to hire experienced legal representation. Drug crimes are not taken lightly in MA, and the right lawyer can mean the difference between years behind bars and freedom.  Continue reading

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