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

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

As the cost of prescription medication continues to rise, so does the rate of prescription drug fraud. Although most prescription fraud is related to the abuse of prescription drugs, more and more people are committing this criminal offense to obtain medication they couldn’t otherwise afford. That being said, the lion’s share of this crime is still committed by those who plan to distribute or abuse prescription drugs. If you are being charged with prescription drug fraud, a MA criminal defense attorney is your best line of defense.

Prescription drug fraud used to be limited to signing a prescribing doctor’s name on a stolen prescription sheet. However, electronic medical records and prescriptions have taken this crime to a whole new level. At first glance, it may seem that this type of fraud has become more difficult to commit, but the opposite is actually true. Although the process of electronic prescription fraud is more sophisticated today, it’s actually much easier to pull off. With today’s technology, you don’t even have to leave your living room to commit prescription fraud.

And this type of fraud doesn’t have to involve hacking into a system and forging electronic prescriptions. Even modifying a legitimate prescription (changing the medicine strength or number of refills) is illegal. There are countless ways of committing prescription fraud that may seem less serious…but at the end of the day, fraud is fraud. For example, some people will visit several physicians at the same time, request the same prescription from each physician, and have each prescription called into a different pharmacy before anyone figures out what’s going on. However, this method is becoming increasingly difficult as insurance carriers continue to beef up their systems for sorting out fraudulent claims. The drugs that insurance companies are most concerned with include OxyContin, Xanax, Valium, Percocet, and Vicodin, all which have high rates of abuse.

Penalties for Prescription Drug Fraud

When you forge a prescription, and then present that prescription as an official note from a licensed M.D., you are committing prescription drug fraud. In MA, the penalties for this crime are largely dependent on the nature of the crime and whether or not you have any prior criminal history. Generally, if it is your first offense, you may be facing up to two-and-a-half years in jail, and fines of up to $30,000. For a second offense, the punishment is markedly more severe; you may be looking at up to eight years in prison.

A bit of good news: if this is your first offense, MA usually offers some type of diversion program as an alternative to imprisonment and hefty fines. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible for such a program. If you qualify, you will likely enter an addiction treatment program. Upon successful completion, your sentence will either be reduced, or all charges will be dropped. Diversion programs are great for keeping you out of jail and keeping your record clean, but they also provide treatment for what is more likely a disease than a crime. Prison is rarely the best place for an addict. Continue reading

In September 2013, officials linked to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used their power to abruptly close lanes on one of the world’s busiest bridges, the George Washington, for four days. Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and Bill Baroni, former deputy executive director for the Port Authority, were sentenced last week for their crimes. During Baroni’s sentencing, Judge Susan Wigenton said the crimes were “an outrageous abuse of power,” and that the incident “culminates another unfortunate chapter in the history of New Jersey.”

The 2013 act of political revenge resulted in a sentence of 24 months in prison for Baroni, and 18 months in prison for Kelly. In addition, both were ordered to complete 500 hours of community service, and pay fines. The conviction came in November, when Baroni and Kelly were found guilty on seven counts, including civil rights deprivation, fraud, and conspiracy. A MA defense lawyer can help if you’ve been charged with criminal conspiracy.

The George Washington Bridge, connects Fort Lee, New Jersey with Manhattan. According to court documents, the four-day closure became a serious public safety risk, endangering citizens and causing severe traffic delays. So, why did officials order the abrupt closure of lanes on one of the world’s busiest bridges? The prosecution alleged that the effort was intended to punish Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s 2013 bid for re-election.

It’s All in the Emails

Charges were filed following an investigation that uncovered incriminating emails and text messages. In one email between Kelly and former Port Authority official David Wildstein, Kelly wrote, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Kelly claims that the email was sarcastic and humorous and that it referred to results from a recent traffic study. It is estimated that the duo’s actions cost Port Authority over $14,000. In Baroni’s testimony, he claimed that he thought the lane closures were part of a legal traffic study, and that Wildstein had relayed this information to him. Wildstein, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the vengeful incident, pleaded guilty to one civil rights violation and one charge of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Only a Prison Sentence Can Restore the Community’s Faith in Public Institutions

The sentences may seem harsh, but prosecutors believed that a prison sentence was the only way to deal with this level of public corruption. The court documents stated that, ”As both Baroni and Kelly surely understood given their lengthy tenures in New Jersey government, crimes committed by public officials are particularly insidious because they destroy the community’s faith in its own public institutions.”

What is Criminal Conspiracy?

In MA, criminal conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit an unlawful act. Three elements must be present to prove a conspiracy existed in MA. These are:

  • The defendant entered into an agreement with at least one other person.
  • The agreement had a criminal or unlawful purpose.
  • The defendant was aware that the purpose was criminal or unlawful and intended to carry out the act.

Penalties for Criminal Conspiracy

Depending on the offense the defendant was conspiring to commit, and any prior criminal history, the penalties for conspiracy can vary widely. If the underlying offense was a misdemeanor, the penalty is up to two-and-a-half years in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. If, however, the defendant conspired to commit a felony, he or she may be facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’re facing criminal conspiracy charges. Continue reading

False accusations occur more frequently than most people think. Especially when it comes to cases involving bitter divorces and child custody battles. Depending on the circumstances of the accusation, however, penalties range from a proverbial slap on the wrist to up to 20 years in prison. The penalties you may be facing for making false criminal accusations are largely dependent on your intent, what you accused someone of, and how you made the accusation.

Accidentally making a false accusation is not a crime. If you report in good faith that someone has committed a crime, you are not likely to face criminal prosecution even if that person did not, in fact, commit a crime. Of course, you may have to convince the court that your accusation was made in good faith. A MA defense lawyer can help if you find yourself in this situation. If, however, you cannot show that you reasonably believed the accusation to be true, you may find yourself criminally and civilly liable.

Was There Intent?

In MA, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly report false information to police. In addition to up to one year in jail, you may also face a civil lawsuit for falsely accusing another person of a crime. False accusations can result in emotional distress and suffering on the part of the person being accused. For these reasons, you could be facing punitive and compensatory damages for making a false accusation. Compensatory damages compensate victims for any losses they suffered due to your actions, while punitive damages are paid as a form of punishment.

When you falsely accuse another person of committing a crime, the legal claims you are most likely to face will be civil claims based on one of the following: malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, or defamation of character.

Accusations of Terrorism

In some cases, false accusations can carry felony charges. If you falsely accuse someone of terrorist activity, or of something serious and immediate enough to require urgent response from police, your punishment will be more severe. “Swatting” occurs when a SWAT team or other urgent response from law enforcement is necessitated. Penalties for this type of false accusation are much higher for two reasons: there is a greater chance that the civil rights of the accused will be violated if an urgent response occurs, and the cost of deploying a SWAT team or similar response is great. As such, false accusations involving terrorism may be punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Randomly making a false accusation about someone to a friend or acquaintance isn’t likely to result in criminal charges. When you make false accusations to law enforcement, however, you are likely to find yourself in hot water.  A Boston defense attorney can help you determine the best legal strategy if you are facing these charges. Of course, as with all offenses, prior criminal history will factor heavily in the outcome of your case. Continue reading

Since 2014, following a Supreme Court ruling, police have needed a warrant to search cell phones of criminal suspects. According to the justices, cell phones and other electronic devices belong to a different category than other “closed containers,” such as wallets and vehicles. When law enforcement officers have probable cause, they are able to conduct limited searches of these items. However, due to the extent and type of information that portable electronic devices may contain, the court agreed that they must be treated differently.

Unreasonable Search and Seizure?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, “unreasonable searches and seizures” are prohibited. Despite this, warrantless searches are sometimes permitted, when the safety of officers is in jeopardy and, in some cases, when the destruction of evidence is a concern. This is why initial, limited searches of vehicles, wallets, and purses or briefcases are allowed in certain situations. But smart phones are different. This ruling came after criminal suspects in California and Massachusetts were convicted, in separate cases, following a warrantless search of their electronic devices. Using text messages, phone numbers, addresses, and photos found in their devices, officials were able to link them to gang activity. A MA defense attorney can help if you believe your constitutional rights were violated during your arrest.

The 2014 Supreme Court ruling stated that:

”The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.”

Almost Everyone Has a Cellphone

According to a Pew Research Center survey, more than 90 percent of Americans currently have access to a cellphone, and about 58 percent have a “smart phone.” And it’s not just the United States. According to the United Nations, most of the seven billion people on earth have access to mobile devices.”Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse,” remarked Chief Justice John Roberts. “Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person.”

Just as law enforcement cannot search someone’s home without a warrant – except under very specific circumstances – they cannot search a cellphone. As cellphone and smart phone technology is new (relatively speaking), legislation around their searches is complex, and constantly evolving. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime following a search of your portable electronic device. Continue reading

Nobody wants to find themselves in court, but it can happen to the best of us. You may be required to appear in court to contest a simple traffic ticket, or for something more serious. In any case, it is in your best interest to convey to the judge that you are taking the matter seriously. Showing respect for the court is crucial to the outcome of your case. Read on for more information about what to do, and what not to do, if you have to appear in court.

Dos and Don’ts in Court

With the help of a skilled MA defense attorney, and by following the tips below, you can significantly improve your chances of success.

  • Dress professionally. As children, we are taught to not judge a book by it’s cover. But court is one place where that advice temporarily goes out the window. First impressions can have an immensely positive or negative impact in court. Dressing professionally and showing up well groomed conveys respect for the judge, and for the matter at hand. You should wear a suit or similar professional attire, and facial hair should be trimmed and neat. Women should avoid excessive make-up and jewelry. Dress as if you are going to a job interview.
  • Avoid speaking without first consulting with your attorney. You have the right to remain silent. Use it to your advantage. In some instances, it may be a good idea to speak, but check with your Boston defense attorney before making that decision. This is true even when the judge is asking you a question.
  • Always be respectful to the judge and courtroom staff. This sounds simple, but it can be difficult to remain silent and respectful when people are accusing you of horrible things, especially when you are innocent. Despite the things being said about you, it is extremely important to avoid responding when you haven’t been asked to do so. Interrupting anyone, especially the judge, is a very bad move. If you’re especially out of line, the judge could hold you in contempt. Always address the judge as “Your Honor,” and address the courtroom staff as “ma’am” or “sir.”
  • Avoid unnecessary distractions, such as phones, food, drinks…and children. Most judges don’t appreciate it when cellphones ring – or even vibrate – during court hearings. And distractions, in general, are unwelcome. Ice rattling in a cup, a wrapper crinkling as you unwrap a candy bar, and the sound of gum chewing or popping can negatively impact your case. This is especially true with regard to bringing children. Yes, children can be a distraction…but that’s not the main reason bringing children to a courtroom is frowned upon. Court hearings are rarely a good place for kids. Subject matter can be highly inappropriate, and even scary, for young ones. Your best bet is to make prior arrangements for someone to care for your children if you have to appear in court.
  • Lastly, show up on time.  There is no faster way to start off on the wrong foot with,Judges, Magistrates, Court Officers than showing up late.

Continue reading

People make mistakes. If a past mistake resulted in a criminal record, you may be worried about how it might affect your chances of getting a certain job. Some fields, especially those that involve working with children, are especially thorough when it comes to background checks. If you are considering becoming a teacher, it would be wise to do some research on how a past criminal conviction may impact your chances. The information below may provide answers to some of your questions. If you still have questions after reading this post, a Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to move forward.

Which Crimes are Showstoppers?

Here’s the thing – it’s not usually the criminal record itself that prevents you from getting a job, but the nature of the underlying offense. A misdemeanor offense from years ago can likely be explained away, but a sexual abuse conviction, for example, is another story. Local school districts hire teachers, and those districts must adhere to state regulations when it comes to teacher certification and hiring guidelines. With regard to Massachusetts, the offenses below will either seriously impact your ability to become a teacher in this state, or they will disqualify you altogether:

  • First and second-degree felonies: These are generally serious crimes, and school districts will consider them seriously. If the felony occurred a long time ago, and it wasn’t of a sexual or violent nature, it is possible that a solid explanation can pave the way to a teaching job. But you may have an uphill climb, to say the least.
  • Sexual Offenses: These are likely to be showstoppers. Teachers deal with children on a daily basis, and a person who has a history of sexual offenses may not be the best candidate for this type of position. Even if your crime wasn’t against a child, a sexual offense will almost certainly disqualify you from becoming a teacher in MA.
  • Offenses that endangered others: If you have been convicted of an endangerment offense (anything that put the safety or lives of others in jeopardy), you will probably not being writing your name on a blackboard in MA anytime soon.
  • Drug offenses: Here, again, the underlying offense is the determining factor. If you were busted smoking pot 10 years ago, you’ll probably be off the hook if your record has remained clear since. But if you were convicted of heroin possession with the intent to sell three years ago, chances are you’re not going to be called back for a second interview.

There are ways to get a teaching position with a criminal record. And there are ways to get certain past convictions expunged (cleared from your record entirely). A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine if expungement is an option for you.

The following statement was taken from the website of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

“A criminal record will not automatically disqualify an individual from licensure

by the Department. Rather, the Department will make determinations of an

individual’s suitability based on CORI checks conducted consistent with this

policy, with licensure standards adopted by the Board of Education, and with any

other applicable law or regulations.” Continue reading

In MA, if you are charged with certain criminal offenses, you may be eligible for something called a pre-trial diversion program. But what exactly does that mean? Well, in short, it’s a program that allows defendants with little to no criminal past to avoid the traditional criminal justice system. In exchange they are enrolled in a program that, upon successful completion, results in dropped charges and no record. Usually reserved for minor offenses committed by young people, such as non-violent alcohol and drug related crimes, a MA defense attorney can help you determine if pre-trial diversion is an option for you.

Criminal convictions come with a whole slew of problems, from jail time and hefty fines to long-term probation and a criminal record. With pre-trial diversion, you may be able to avoid all of the above. In MA, if your offense was relatively minor and you have little to no criminal record, or you are a veteran, you may be eligible for this program. Run by the local District Attorney’s Office, pre-trial diversion requires the successful completion of several requirements. A Boston defense attorney can evaluate the details of your case to determine if the District Attorney’s Office is likely to agree to diversion. If you are eligible, you may never have to face a judge.

What are the Requirements of Pre-Trial Diversion?

The requirements you must complete are largely dependent on the underlying crime. For example, if you were charged as a minor in possession of alcohol, you may be required to enroll in an alcohol abuse treatment program. If you successfully complete the program, your charges will be dismissed. In order to be considered for the program, however, you must fit into certain categories. These include:

  • You must be between 17 and 22 years of age.
  • Your charge must be a misdemeanor and a first offense (most commonly-approved charges include theft, shoplifting, drunk driving, and assault).
  • You must have no warrants for your arrest.
  • You must have no pending federal or state criminal cases.
  • The court must have jurisdiction over the crime you are being charged with.

Pre-Trial Diversion for Military Veterans

There is one exception for the age requirement – being a military veteran. In fact, certain diversion programs are uniquely tailored to veterans. If you do not complete your requirements or you violate any of its terms, you will be re-entered into the criminal justice system. This exception for veterans is pursuant to the Valor Act. Under this law, a veteran may be permitted to enroll in a diversion program as an alternative to prosecution. In order to qualify, the individual must:

  • Be a veteran, be a member of active service, or have past military history.
  • Be charged with a state crime.
  • Have no previous federal or state convictions.
  • Have no warrants for arrest.
  • Have no pending criminal cases.

Veterans who qualify for the program are usually enrolled in Mission Direct Vet (MDV) treatment programs. MDV offers treatment programs for veterans suffering from substance abuse and mental health problems. Continue reading

The United States Constitution holds that a citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, there are some exceptions. In Massachusetts, an individual accused of a crime can be detained in the county jail, before his trial, for up to 90 days if he is deemed a “dangerous person.” This is known as pre-trial detention.

In addition to creating extra stress and hardship, pre-trial detention can impede the defendant’s ability to work with his lawyer on a defense. In most cases, a defense lawyer works with the defendant, immediately following a charge, to craft an effective defense while details are still fresh in his mind. During these crucial hours and days following a criminal charge, the defendant may:

  • Provide contact information for witnesses.
  • Visit the scene of the alleged crime with his lawyer.
  • Provide details of the events leading to his arrest.
  • Work with his attorney to gather important evidence.

If the defendant is locked in pre-trial detention during this important phase of the defense process, his chances of success are dramatically reduced. For this reason, among others, it is essential to find a Boston defense attorney who understands how to avoid pre-trial detention. And if, for any reason, your attorney is unable to remove such an order, he or she should understand how to use it to your advantage. When a defendant is subjected to pre-trial detention, his attorney is generally permitted greater access to the prosecution’s witnesses. During cross-examination, a skilled MA defense attorney can look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and use them to the defendant’s advantage.

What Types of Crimes Can Place a Defendant in Pre-Trial Detention in MA?

This type of order is most commonly issued in domestic abuse cases, but the following scenarios may also result in the pre-trial detention of a defendant:

  • Felonies involving “the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.”
  • Felonies that involved a “substantial risk” of physical force or injury even if no injury occurred.
  • Violations of restraining orders.
  • Misdemeanors or felonies involving abuse.
  • Drug offenses with mandatory minimum sentences of three years or more.
  • Third or subsequent motor vehicle offenses (generally involving drunk driving).

Prior to the issuance of a pre-trial detention order, a hearing must be held. The hearing is like a mini-version of the upcoming trial; the judge makes rulings and examines the facts. However, the hearing is also an opportunity for the defense attorney to learn a great deal about the prosecution’s evidence, or lack thereof.

What Factors Does a Judge Consider When Deciding if a Pre-Trial Detention is Necessary?

  • The level of danger posed to the community by the defendant.
  • The allegations of violence against the defendant.
  • The potential penalties if the defendant is convicted.
  • History of mental illness.
  • The defendant’s reputation.
  • The risk that the defendant will attempt to intimidate witnesses or obstruct justice.
  • Past criminal record.
  • Whether the alleged crime included abuse.
  • History of restraining order violations, if any.

Continue reading

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