Articles Posted in Criminal Law

What is a show cause hearing?

A show cause hearing is held before a Massachusetts district court magistrate to establish whether or not there is probable cause that you committed the crime you are accused of. In other words, the prosecution must demonstrate that the evidence shows reasonable grounds for you to be charged with the crime. It is generally available to you if you are accused of committing a misdemeanor crime that you were not arrested for. You may request one within four days of receiving a motor vehicle citation that details misdemeanor charges. At this hearing you, the accused, may bring witnesses. The clerk magistrate will ultimately determine if there is sufficient evidence to constitute probable cause.  If he or she determines there is, you will be given a date for your arraignment, where charges will be formally brought against you. If you were arrested, charged with a felony, or the magistrate determines that you may be dangerous, you are not entitled to a show cause hearing.

What is a probable cause hearing?

Foreign extradition is the process by which a criminal found within the United States, is handed over to another country for the sake of criminal proceedings in that country. This process is regulated by treaty and is handled by the federal government. The United States has agreements with over 100 countries. Often these treaties cover all acts that are considered crimes in both countries; however, some only apply to specific crimes. There are times when extradition is allowed without the presence of a treaty, but this will often only occur if the country offers reciprocity. In other words, the United States will not extradite to one country in the absence of a treaty unless the other country will extradite to the United States. The United States has even been willing to extradite people to another country, even when that country would not do the same. The bottom line: America is willing to extradite those within its borders to another country. If you are at risk of foreign extradition, contact one of our foreign extradition attorneys today.

What is an extraditable offense?

Extradition treaties must lay out specific offenses that warrant extradition. In cases where the specific offense is not listed in the treaty, extradition will not be allowed. Many countries, including the United States, may also refuse to extradite offenses that allow for the death penalty in the requesting country.

Who is a clerk’s hearing available to?

A Clerk’s Magistrate Hearing, also known as a Show Cause Hearing, is an incredible opportunity for you to prevent a criminal case from appearing on your criminal record (CORI). You will receive a notice to appear for a clerk’s hearing if you were not arrested and brought in for arraignment. This is common for misdemeanor charges and for felonies for which the officer chooses not to arrest you on-site, or for crimes in which an officer was not actually present. The most common clerk’s hearing occurs in response to a Motor Vehicle Citation, or speeding ticket. In this case, you will not receive a notice to attend. Instead it is your responsibility to go to the court within four days of receiving the ticket. A clerk’s hearing occurs in lieu of an arrest when civilians ask the court to bring a criminal charge against you. Massachusetts law requires that, if the officer does not arrest you, the officer ask the court to notify you before a complaint is filed against you. You will then be issued the notice before you are formally charged. The notice typically comes in the mail. Many respondents see this as an indication that the matter is not serious. This is not the case.

What happens at the hearing?

A California man has become the second affluent parent to be sentenced to serve jail time in relation to a wide-reaching fraud case involving college admissions. Devin Sloane, CEO of a Los Angeles water and wastewater treatment facility, was sentenced to serve four months, plus two years of supervised release, complete 500 hours of community service and pay a $95,000 fine in federal court in Boston on Sept. 24. He originally plead guilty to his charges in May.

Sloane is the second parent, the first being actress Felicity Huffman – who received a two-week prison sentence earlier in September – to be convicted of making fraudulent claims to a high-profile university as part of a scheme to get their children accepted into the school. A third parent, a Chinese foreign national, was also indicted on the same day of Sloane’s sentencing for allegedly paying $400,000 to get her son admitted into UCLA as a soccer recruit, despite never playing the sport competitively.

In Sloane’s case, not only did he knowingly defraud the University of Southern California (USC), he also lied to government officials at the IRS and directly conspired with the scheme’s admitted mastermind, William Singer, who is also awaiting trial. In total, there are 52 current defendants charged in connection with the college admissions scandal.

The Sloane case demonstrates another example of a wealthy parent utilizing outright fraud to trick a university into granting admission to their child. Sloane, according to federal prosecutors, took multiple steps to fraud USC into believing that his son was an aspiring water polo star, despite his son never playing the sport. He went so far as to purchase water polo equipment online, staged a fake photoshoot of his son playing the sport in their family pool, and then went so far as to hire a graphic design team to alter the photos to make it appear as though he were playing competitively.

The brazenness of Sloane’s case goes farther, as he paid $250,000 in a direct bribe to compromised USC officials to facilitate the fraud. When high school counselors of Sloane’s son – who knew he had never played the sport at any level – questioned how he was being recruited to play the sport at a collegiate competitive level, Sloane reportedly exhibited anger that he should even be questioned. Sloane would also cover up his bribe to USC by reporting it as a donation from his mother, who is deceased. Continue reading

A hate crime is defined as a prejudice or bias-motivated crime that occurs when a victim is targeted because of his or her membership in a particular race or social group. Even if the victim does not actually belong to that group, the act can be classified as a hate crime if such “membership” was perceived. Perpetrators of hate crimes often target an individual based on gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or religion. This is not, however, an exhaustive list.

Hate crimes and hate speech are distinctly different. Whereas hate speech is criminalized in and of itself, hate crimes involve a crime that exists even without the bias or prejudice but is elevated due to its prejudiced nature. For example, assault is a crime, but if a white Christian man assaults a black Muslim man, it may be classified as a hate crime.

According to a report released by the FBI on Tuesday, hate crimes are on the rise in MA. In fact, this type of criminal act increased by eight-percent from 2016 to 2017.

In January 2017, the bodies of 32-year-old Jenna Pellegrini and 48-year-old Christine Sullivan were found under a backyard tarp at a home in Farmington, New Hampshire. Each woman had suffered multiple stab wounds. Among the evidence collected at the home was an Amazon Echo smart speaker (commonly referred to as Alexa), which the prosecution believes may have recorded crucial sounds during at least one of the murders.

Last week, a spokesperson for Amazon said that the retail giant will not release information “without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.” But it looks like that information will soon be on its way. Amazon was ordered by Judge Steven Houran to release all recordings, as well as any relevant data, such as whether anyone’s phone was linked to the Echo device. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

“The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability,” wrote Judge Houran, “from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period.”

Timothy Verrill was arrested and charged with the murders of Pellegrini and Sullivan. Verrill, an acquaintance of Sullivan’s boyfriend, pleaded not guilty to the double murder charges. According to surveillance video, he knew the home’s security code and had been there with both women prior to the night of the murder. Investigators believe that Alexa may have been activated by “wake words” or someone saying “Alexa” from its location in the kitchen, where they believe Sullivan’s murder was committed.

The involvement of tech in criminal cases is quickly becoming commonplace. In October, a Fitbit  contributed to a murder suspect’s arrest, and Amazon had to produce data from another Echo device in a 2015 murder investigation in Bentonville, Arkansas. Although Amazon argued its First Amendment rights in that case, the defendant consented to the release of data. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Privacy vs. Information

Amazon also attempted to avoid this most recent request, saying it was in violation of customer privacy, but Judge Houran disagreed. The argument of privacy vs. information isn’t expected to disappear any time soon. In fact, in a world where nothing is considered to be of value unless it’s recorded and/or shared, the battle has likely only just begun.

Smart devices, such as Alexa, Siri and Google’s Home assistant, are in millions of homes across the country. In addition to playing music and answering questions—such as what’s the weather today and who was the first female supreme court justice—smart devices record what people say. And that recording doesn’t just disappear into the ether. It is sent to a server, where it is…well, we can’t answer that for certain. What is happening to these recordings, and who is listening to our most intimate conversations?

I guess the better question is, what is your privacy worth to you? Continue reading

In early September, a gas pressure issue in Columbia Gas lines caused 131 Massachusetts homes to explode or catch fire. The tragedy resulted in one death and 23 injuries. Homes and businesses were destroyed, thousands had to be evacuated, and—more than a month later—many victims remain homeless, or without heat. Columbia Gas and its parent company Nisource Inc. have understandably faced heavy criticism from the victims and the general public. But the situation stands to become even more complicated.

A federal grand jury served Nisource with subpoenas on September 24, just two weeks after the explosions. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also conducting an investigation. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another.

Further information about the nature of the investigation is as yet unavailable, and a spokesman for the company declined to answer questions Thursday.

“We are cooperating with all investigations and inquiries into the Lawrence event, including the criminal matter. However, we can’t speak specifically to any of those inquiries,” said NiSource spokesman Ken Stammen.

But Why is it Criminal?

According to the NTSB, Columbia Gas workers, who were tasked with replacing old pipes in Lawrence, were given bad work orders by the company. The orders failed to acknowledge the existence of a pressure-sensing feedback line, which resulted in high-pressure gas being pumped into the system, and the subsequent explosions.

“We’re sharing information we think is of interest that investors need to know about,” said Ken Stammen, a Nisource spokesperson. “Beyond that, there are limitations around what we can say about investigations.”

Leonel Rondon, an 18-year-old Lawrence man was killed in the September 13 explosions and many more were injured.

“I think it’s appropriate and right to do,” said Dan Rivera, Lawrence Mayor, when asked about the criminal investigation. “A young man lost his life and the city was turned upside down.”

Nisource Linked to Three Previous Explosions

Considering Nisource’s history, such a deadly error is even more disturbing. The company is linked to three prior gas explosions.

  • In November 2012, a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts explosion destroyed the Scores strip club in Springfield, MA and injured 21. About a dozen nearby buildings were also damaged.
  • In December 2012, a gas pipeline operated by Columbia Gas Transmission exploded in Sissonville, West Virginia, destroying three homes and propelling a 20-foot section of pipe through the air.
  • In March 2015, an “improperly abandoned” Columbia Gas of Ohio service line exploded, causing $9 million in structural damage.

Many of Nation’s Oldest and Leakiest Pipes are in Boston

A recently-published USA TODAY report reveals that tens of thousands of miles of old pipelines need upgraded across the country. Many of these are in Boston and the surrounding suburbs, which have some of the nation’s oldest and leakiest pipes. This “silent danger” has caused a general sense of alarm among MA residents, but Nisource President Joseph Hamrock says that they are working hard to resolve the problem.

“This tragic event has been a humbling experience for all of us at Nisource and Columbia Gas,” said Hamrock. “We realized that much work lies ahead of us to finish our service restoration in Greater Lawrence, and regain the trust of our customers and the communities we serve.”

According to Nisource, approximately 8,500 gas meters had to be shut down for service following the explosions. About 700 of those belonged to area businesses. A MA injury attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence.

Columbia Gas initially reported that the thousands of customers impacted would have gas by November 19, but they updated that date to December 16, last week.

Insurance Payments Will Cover Most of Nisource’s Expenses

Although the September tragedy has already cost Nisource about $462 million, most of those expenses will be “substantially recovered” through the utility company’s insurance policy, which has a limit of about $800 million. The $462 million accounts for approximately $415 million in personal injury and property damage expenses, and the remainder will be payments to utility companies that helped with the restoration project. In addition to the criminal investigation, Nisource will likely face civil suits from victims of the explosion. Continue reading

Assault and Battery are common crimes in Massachusetts, whether together or as stand-alone offenses. But most people don’t really understand the conduct behind each of these crimes. It is common for someone to refer to a certain act as an assault, when they really mean battery, and vice versa.

Assault and Battery Distinguished

Assault is an act that creates a fear of imminent, harmful, or offensive conduct. Battery is the crime that occurs when the harmful or offensive conduct is carried out. The key distinction between the two crimes is that for battery, there has to be a touching. If there is no touching, but the victim is in fear of a touching, that crime is an assault. For example, if a person attempts to punch another person, but misses, he/she may be charged with assault. If there is a touching (the punch lands), the charge will likely be battery.

In MA, a second offense for operating under the influence (OUI), also known as drunk driving, has serious consequences that can impact you and your family. As explained below, these penalties include substantial fines, loss of license, and even time behind bars.

If you have been charged with a second offense OUI, you may be feeling scared and alone. But you are not alone. OUI is the most common charge in Massachusetts courts, and we are here to help. The good news? As long as no one was injured as a result of the OUI, a second offense will be charged as a misdemeanor. If, however, your offense involved an injury accident, you may be facing felony charges. The information below may help you make the best decision for you and your family.

What Counts as a First OUI?

New Sealing and Expungement in Massachusetts – Effective October 1st, 2018.

The sealing and expungement laws in Massachusetts have been revamped and will be taking effect on October 1, 2018.  While the procedures, time lines and nuances have yet to be worked out, there is a lot that is clear and known.

Prior to October 1, 2018, in order to have a felony conviction sealed, one would have to wait 10 years from his guilty finding and/or from when he was released from prison or jail.  The new law will change that waiting period from 10 years to 7 years.

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