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

Before we get into the differences between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant, it’s important to state a crucial similarity between the two – they should never be ignored. Knowing that the police are searching for you can be scary, but warrants don’t just go away on their own. And turning yourself in will result in a better outcome than if you force police to track you down. Further, turning yourself in will prevent the embarrassing scenario of being arrested at home or – even worse – at work. So, now that we’ve covered the importance of not ignoring any type of warrant, let’s discuss the differences between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant.

Bench Warrant

Bench warrants can be issued in civil and criminal cases. In criminal cases, they are typically issued if a defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court date. In civil cases, they are often issued for witnesses who are being subpoenaed, as well as for individuals who fail to show up for their jury duty. Bench warrants may also be used in child support cases for parents who aren’t making their required monthly support payments. Generally, however, this only occurs when other efforts, such as wage garnishment, have been unsuccessful. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if a warrant has been issued against you.

When it comes to bench warrants, police rarely conduct an active search for the individual. However, if you are stopped for another reason, such as a minor traffic violation, the warrant will appear and you will be taken into custody. At this point, you will not only be defending yourself against the underlying offense or issue, you’ll have the added disadvantage of being viewed as someone who attempted to dodge the justice system. Being proactive and taking care of warrants immediately, whether criminal or civil, is always advisable.

Arrest Warrant

An arrest warrant, on the other hand, is issued when there is probable cause that the individual has committed a crime. If law enforcement convinces the judge that you are responsible for a crime, the judge may issue an arrest warrant against you. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have been charged with any type of crime.

The main difference between arrest and bench warrants is that, police will actively search you if an arrest warrant has been issued against you. This is especially true if you are wanted for a violent or serious crime. Law enforcement can show up at your home, place of employment, and anywhere else that you frequent. They will look for you and can arrest you anywhere. Even if you end up being found innocent, getting arrested at work or at home can be an emotionally traumatic and highly-embarrassing situation. Don’t let this type of scenario ruin your reputation; take care of arrest warrants before police come looking for you. Continue reading

Before we get into the differences between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant, it’s important to state a crucial similarity between the two – they should never be ignored. Knowing that the police are searching for you can be scary, but warrants don’t just go away on their own. And turning yourself in will result in a better outcome than if you force police to track you down. Further, turning yourself in will prevent the embarrassing scenario of being arrested at home or – even worse – at work. So, now that we’ve covered the importance of not ignoring any type of warrant, let’s discuss the differences between a bench warrant and an arrest warrant.

Bench Warrant

Bench warrants can be issued in civil and criminal cases. In criminal cases, they are typically issued if a defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court date. In civil cases, they are often issued for witnesses who are being subpoenaed, as well as for individuals who fail to show up for their jury duty. Bench warrants may also be used in child support cases for parents who aren’t making their required monthly support payments. Generally, however, this only occurs when other efforts, such as wage garnishment, have been unsuccessful. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if a warrant has been issued against you.

When it comes to bench warrants, police rarely conduct an active search for the individual. However, if you are stopped for another reason, such as a minor traffic violation, the warrant will appear and you will be taken into custody. At this point, you will not only be defending yourself against the underlying offense or issue, you’ll have the added disadvantage of being viewed as someone who attempted to dodge the justice system. Being proactive and taking care of warrants immediately, whether criminal or civil, is always advisable.

Arrest Warrant

An arrest warrant, on the other hand, is issued when there is probable cause that the individual has committed a crime. If law enforcement convinces the judge that you are responsible for a crime, the judge may issue an arrest warrant against you. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have been charged with any type of crime.

The main difference between arrest and bench warrants is that, police will actively search you if an arrest warrant has been issued against you. This is especially true if you are wanted for a violent or serious crime. Law enforcement can show up at your home, place of employment, and anywhere else that you frequent. They will look for you and can arrest you anywhere. Even if you end up being found innocent, getting arrested at work or at home can be an emotionally traumatic and highly-embarrassing situation. Don’t let this type of scenario ruin your reputation; take care of arrest warrants before police come looking for you. Continue reading

When a police officer stops your vehicle on suspicion of OUI, he or she will likely initiate a series of tests to determine if the suspicion is accurate. The officer will observe your eyes, your speech, and your overall demeanor. He or she will ask questions, such as have you had anything to drink.” If the officer believes there is probable cause, you will likely be asked to step out of the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. You may also be asked to submit to a breath or blood test. These tests are performed to gather evidence, and any information obtained will be used against you in an OUI case. As such, it’s important to know your rights if you are ever stopped after having a few drinks.

 

  • Ask for a lawyer. There is very little information that you are required to give to police during an OUI stop. You must provide basic identifying information, such as your name and address, driver’s license and registration. But even a question such as have you had anything to drink tonight doesn’t require a response. Your best bet is to remain calm and courteous, and to politely ask to speak to your lawyer before answering any questions. A skilled Boston OUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of OUI.

 

  • Do not submit to the field sobriety test. Ok, before we move forward it’s important to note the following – you do have to get out of the vehicle if the officer asks you to do so. You do not, however, have to answer the officer’s questions or perform a field sobriety test. If asked to get out of your vehicle, do so politely, and then inform the officer that you do not wish to perform the field sobriety test, and that you would like to speak to your lawyer immediately. Field sobriety tests are designed to produce failures. People who are completely sober frequently fail these tests. Without the evidence of a failed field sobriety test, proving that you’re guilty becomes quite the hurdle.

 

Are there Consequences of Refusing a Field Sobriety test?

Well, refusal of a field sobriety test doesn’t carry the official consequences of refusing a breath test (we’ll talk about those shortly), but refusing a field sobriety test is a relatively surefire way of getting arrested. The same could be said for submitting to the test, however. In many ways, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t…but for one major exception; a failed field sobriety test may lead you to jail and – most likely – a conviction. A refused test may lead you to jail, but you’ll have a significantly better chance of having your OUI charge dismissed without that evidence to substantiate the charge.

Can I Refuse the Breathalyzer?

Breath and blood tests are an entirely different story. In MA, refusing a breath test carries an automatic 180-day license suspension. That being said, it may still be in your best interest to refuse the breath test. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this problem. Your best course of action is to contact an experienced MA OUI defense attorney immediately if you find yourself in this situation. Continue reading

Yes. But that doesn’t mean you want to refuse. On the other hand, it also doesn’t mean you should submit to the test. This conflicting advice may leave you feeling a bit confused, but with good reason; there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the decision to refuse (or submit to) a breathalyzer test in MA. If you decide to take the test and it reads .08 or higher, you will lose your license for 30 days if it’s your first offense. If you refuse to take the test, however, you will receive an automatic 180-day suspension.

At first glance, it may seem that taking the test is in your best interest. But a failed breathalyzer test is hard evidence to overcome at trial. You have a much better chance of beating an OUI charge if a failed breathalyzer test is not on the table. A Boston OUI defense attorney can help you defend yourself in court, whether you took and failed a breath test or refused the test altogether.

Assess Your Situation

If you refuse the test and a skilled attorney is successful in defending you against the OUI charge, your license will generally be reinstated in less than 180 days. Remember, this favorable outcome is only likely if the circumstances of your case are equally favorable. If, for example, this is your second or subsequent OUI charge, and / or several witnesses claim to have seen you driving recklessly before you were stopped, your chances of success will be seriously limited. However, if this was a first offense and there were no other aggravating circumstances present during your stop or arrest, penalties for refusing the breathalyzer are much more likely to be waived.

In MA, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher is above the legal limit. If your breathalyzer results indicate .08 or above, that evidence will be hard to fight in court. If, however, you refuse the test, there will be no evidence of your BAC at trial, and – even better – the jury will not be made aware of your refusal. If you are found not guilty, your MA OUI defense attorney will file a motion arguing for reinstatement of your license prior to the 180-day period. Unless the prosecution can prove that your license should not be reinstated, you are likely to get it back in relatively short order.

What if I’m Under 21?

If you are 21 or older and you fail a breath test, your license will be suspended for 30 days. That is just the initial suspension; you will likely receive a later suspension if you are found guilty. However, there are some circumstances in which a failed breath test carries an automatic 180-day suspension.

  • If you are between the ages of 18 and 21 and your BAC is .02 or higher, you will lose your license for 30 days plus 180 days. In some cases you can waive this suspension by enrolling in a Youth Alcohol Program (YAP).
  • If you are under the age of 18, you will face a one-year suspension if you fail a breathalyzer. If you enroll in an approved alcohol treatment program, this suspension may be reduced to 180 days.

This may seem like an easy choice – I’ll lose my license for 180 days no matter what, so I might as well refuse the test, right? But the reality is, it’s not that simple. Although a failed breath test has an extended suspension if you are under 21, so does a refusal. If you are under 21 and you refuse a breathalyzer, your license will automatically be suspended for three years.

What if this isn’t My First OUI?

Things get a bit more complicated with second and subsequent OUIs. If you’ve previously been convicted of one OUI, a breathalyzer refusal carriers an automatic three-year suspension. And if you have two previous convictions, that increases to five years. If this is your third or subsequent conviction, a refusal will result in a lifetime suspension. Continue reading

During a criminal investigation, police may ask you questions whether you’re under arrest or not. But you don’t have to answer. Well, at least not most questions, and not initially. You must provide basic identifying information, such as your name and date of birth. If law enforcement asks you additional questions, you have the right to simply say “no” or remain silent, but the questions will likely continue until you specifically request to speak with a lawyer. This is true at any stage of the process.

The Fifth Amendment

The fifth amendment to the United States Constitution upholds a person’s right to remain silent. As such, invoking this right is often referred to as “pleading the fifth.” This amendment, which was proposed to congress in 1789, holds that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

But the fifth amendment is not without limits. For starters, commands and orders are not questions and should not be treated as such. For example, if an officer asks where you were the night a crime was committed, you have a right to plead the fifth. You do not, however, have the right to remain in your vehicle if an officer is ordering you to get out.

Can I Refuse a Request to Go to the Station for Questioning?

In short, yes. If you are a suspect, however, investigators will likely come to your work or home, and you may be arrested on the spot. A better idea is to schedule an appointment for later in the day or the next day, after you’ve had a chance to consult with a skilled Boston criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can even accompany you to the station, and can provide you with additional details about what to expect. Attempting to “go it alone” can be a big mistake when it comes to criminal investigations.

Should I Ask Police if I’m a Suspect?

Coming right out and asking police if you’re a suspect can be a very bad idea. For starters, they have absolutely no obligation to be completely honest during an interrogation. They might even lie to trick you. Further, the question itself can be incriminating. Avoid asking this question; ask for an attorney instead. Remember, anything that you say can be used against you.

Talking to police can be scary. They can be intimidating enough on their own, but you might also fear retaliation from those involved in the crime for “ratting them out,” talking too much, or even just providing a witness statement. Having an experienced MH defense attorney by your side can provide you with legal protection and the peace of mind to move forward. Continue reading

Although the reason has yet to be determined, motorcycle thefts rose two percent in 2016. Maybe it’s because they look cool, or maybe they’re just easier to steal than other motor vehicles. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has released statistics that provide more information about where these thefts are most prevalent, and what may be behind the increase. A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with motorcycle theft.

Top 10 Cities for Motorcycle Theft

Of the top 10 cities mentioned in the NICB report, nine are located in warm climates. This isn’t a big surprise, given that more bikes are purchased in warmer-climate areas, and they are generally on the road for more months each year in these places. However, the only city on the list with a cold climate in winter months also happens to be the city with the highest number of motorcycle thefts – New York City. The top 10 cities were:

  • New York City (1,209)
  • San Diego (849)
  • Las Vegas (818)
  • Los Angeles (760)
  • San Francisco (616)
  • Miami (610)
  • Houston (607)
  • San Antonio (411)
  • Phoenix (347)
  • Austin (343)

Not surprisingly, motorcycle thefts in NYC were highest in August and lowest in February, further proof that Mother Nature plays a significant role in motorcycle thefts.

When the NICB looked at motorcycle theft by state, the leaders were California, Florida and Texas. Looking at the city stats above, this doesn’t come as a surprise. However, numbers four and five on that list were South Carolina and North Carolina, respectively. Considering that population isn’t as robust in these states, some researchers are left scratching their heads. Yes, both North and South Carolina have warmer climates, but so do many other states with worse records of overall crime.

When Temperatures Drop, So Does Crime

Maybe New England’s brutal winters do have some very real benefits. But motorcycle thefts do still occur here; in 2015, 34 bikes were stolen in MA. A Boston defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of theft.

What’s Behind the Increase?

Theft of motorcycles had been declining for nine years when it increased in 2015, and then again in 2016. According to the NICB’s Frank Scafidi, it is easier to steal a motorcycle. “Stealing a bike is much easier than stealing a car simply because of its size,” said Scafidi. “If you have your bike all chained up and covered with all kinds of immobilizing technology, it can still be picked up with a fork lift, loaded into a pickup truck and taken away.” And with car anti-theft systems becoming more sophisticated every day, motorcycles are increasingly an easier option.

Unfortunately for bike owners, the recovery rate tends to be lower than the recovery rate for cars. This is largely due to the fact that bikes are frequently “chopped” for individual parts. Of the 46,467 motorcycles stolen in 2016, only about 18,000 were recovered.

Penalties for Motorcycle Theft in MA

Considering that most motorcycles are valued at more than $250, motorcycle theft is classified as grand larceny in MA. A felony charge, grand larceny carries a penalty of up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Continue reading

Writing in a journal can be extremely therapeutic; jotting down thoughts, hopes and fears can help you solve problems, stick to a plan, and reach goals. Although journals have long been hailed as a private space in which you can divulge your deepest, darkest secrets, you may want to think about withholding criminal confessions from its pages.

If your journal is found during a legal search, it will likely be admissible as evidence in court. The search doesn’t even have to be conducted by law enforcement; if one of your family members or roommates finds something incriminating in your journal and reports it to law enforcement, your Fourth Amendment protections may fly out the window.

Invasion of privacy is a no-no, but legally obtaining a journal or diary during a search does not constitute invasion of privacy. If the contents of the journal are deemed relevant to the charges you are facing, the prosecution will likely use it against you. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

The Search Has to Fit the Crime

Keep in mind, however, that simply being arrested doesn’t give law enforcement a green light to read your journal. If you get arrested for shoplifting, for example, it doesn’t give police the right to demand your private journal. If, however, you are arrested for a more serious crime such as arson, police will likely search your home. If that search turns up a journal, investigators are almost certain to use it against you. A Boston defense attorney can help you protect your rights if evidence was obtained during an unlawful search.

In some situations, a journal might actually help your case. If journal entries corroborate your defense that you were in New York the night of a murder, for example, it may be used as proof that you were out of state when the crime was committed. And memories fade; you may have trouble proving your innocence when relying solely on memory, but a journal can help you remember where you were, what you were doing, and when you were doing it.

Were Your Rights Violated?

If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s important to know your constitutional rights. In today’s world, it’s not just journal entries that can come back to haunt us. Blogs, emails, message boards, chat rooms, texts, Snap chats, and a whole slew of other electronic communications can be used against you in certain circumstances. If you believe that evidence against you was obtained in an unlawful manner, or that lawfully-obtained evidence is being used in an unlawful manner, it’s essential to know how to ask for that evidence to be removed. This is where the help of a skilled defense lawyer can make all the difference in the world. A criminal conviction can be devastating to your financial and emotional well-being for years into the future. Don’t make the mistake of hiring an inexperienced attorney. Continue reading

In 2014, then-17-year-old Michelle Carter allegedly encouraged her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy IIII to commit suicide. She did it through text. Earlier this week, Carter’s manslaughter trial commenced, with prosecutors arguing that the now-20-year-old Plainville woman’s texts urged Roy to take his own life.

Both Carter and Roy had a history of mental illness. In fact, Roy had attempted suicide in 2012. But what could have possibly motivated Carter to send such damning texts to her boyfriend? Prosecutors claim that she was lonely and did it to improve her social life. According to testimony at the trial on Tuesday, Carter sent the following text to a friend, Samantha Boardman:

“Yeah I have school friends that all say they love me . . . [but] no one ever asks to hang out with me. No one ever calls me or texts me. It’s always me who has to do it.’’

To another friend, Carter texted: “Stop telling me how wonderful and beautiful I am. Beautiful girls get invited to parties and their friends call and wanna hang out . . . I have like no friends. I am alone all the time.”

Is it possible that Carter believed she’d finally get the attention she craved in the wake of her boyfriend’s tragic suicide? In yet another text to an acquaintance who claims not to know the defendant well, Carter wrote, “I was on the phone talking to him when he killed himself.” A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with manslaughter or any other crime.

What is Carter’s Defense for Her Actions?

Carter has been struggling with mental health issues for years. As such, she was taking the prescription drug Celexa for depression when she encouraged Roy to commit suicide via text. Studies have shown that Celexa, the brand name for citalopram, is known to cause “impulse control issues,” which may have contributed to Carter’s “lashing out,” and other abnormal behaviors. If this is true, the young woman’s actions may have been out of her control. Carter and Roy had actually bonded over mental health struggles. In fact, according to Carter’s defense attorney, she had previously attempted to convince Roy to seek psychiatric treatment.

Although the Celexa may have contributed to Carter’s behavior that day, her behaviors following Roy’s suicide have not helped her case at all. According to text records, she texted Lynn Roy, her deceased boyfriend’s mother, multiple times in the days following his death. In these texts, she expressed sympathy and a desire to help, but she conveniently left out any knowledge of Roy’s plans or information about their conversations leading up to his death. Despite several text messages urging Roy to kill himself, Carter texted the following message to Roy’s mother after his death:

“You tried your hardest, I tried my hardest, everyone tried their hardest to save him. But he had his mind set on taking his life.” A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing criminal charges. Continue reading

In most cases, if a landlord’s negligence leads to an unsafe condition on their property, the landlord generally won’t be held criminally liable for resulting injuries or death. However, an exception may occur if the landlord’s actions were especially egregious.

Last December, a fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist collective in Oakland, California. The space, which had been rented to artists as a living and working space, was also used for parties, similar to the dance party that was underway when the tragedy occurred.

The art collective’s manager, Derick Alamena and his assistant, Max Harris, were arrested earlier this week in connection with the deadly blaze. They are each being charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Although it is not believed that either Alamena or Harris had anything to do with starting the fire, their egregious disregard for the safety of tenants and party-goers has elevated their actions to criminal status. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

During an investigation into a criminal or civil matter, witnesses may be subpoenaed to court to supply evidence, such as documents and DNA, and to testify against defendants and report crimes. In some cases, obtaining witness testimonies and evidence is easy. In other cases, witnesses are reluctant to comply. If you’ve been subpoenaed, do you have to comply?

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a document that orders a person to provide testimony during an investigation. In addition to appearing before the investigative body, the individual may also be required to produce documents and other evidence relevant to the case. Subpoenas are not typically issued to willing witnesses who are enthusiastic to come forward; they are generally reserved for those who initially refuse to appear. Ignoring or disobeying the orders within a subpoena may result in civil or criminal penalties. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been subpoenaed.

Once again, the Trump administration has brought some lesser-known legal situations into the spotlight. Take retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, for example. The president’s former national security adviser is caught in the middle of two investigations into the campaign’s Russian ties leading into the 2016 election. As Flynn is not particularly eager to testify, a subpoena was issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. But Flynn declined the request. Is that allowed?

Can I Plead the Fifth?

The Fifth Amendment of the constitution protects individuals against self-incrimination by preventing any person from being compelled to provide evidence that is likely to be incriminating in a subsequent criminal case. Flynn invoked these rights in the above case by pleading the Fifth. But this right is not absolute. A person can only plead the Fifth with regard to testimonial evidence, as opposed to identifying evidence, such as DNA and fingerprints. Further, only individuals can plead the Fifth; corporations don’t have this right. This is why Flynn’s businesses are being served with subpoenas, requesting documents related to the ongoing investigation.

What is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court is the act of being disobedient or discourteous to a court of law in a way that defies its authority. If charged with contempt, you may face criminal penalties. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine if you are at risk of being charged with contempt.

If pleading the Fifth is a privilege, how can I be charged with contempt of court for invoking that privilege? There are certain situations in which the privilege against self-incrimination can be waived. For example, a defendant in a criminal case can plead the Fifth, but if he or she chooses to testify, the privilege has been waived and the defendant can be cross-examined. In another example, if a witness refuses to testify after being given immunity (prevents testimony from being used against the witness in the future), he or she can be held in contempt of court. Most charges of contempt involve jail time and further penalties. Continue reading

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