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 Drug Offenses

Although crime in Boston is reportedly down, murders were up in 2016. There were a total of 47 homicides in Boston last year, which is nine more than 2015. The first homicide of last year was a 16-year-old teen who was shot and attacked with a machete in East Boston. Sadly, he was the third teen to be murdered in that neighborhood in only four months. According to police, all three deaths were part of an initiation for the MS-13 street gang. Suspects are currently awaiting trial.

According to Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, the police department has been cracking down on violent gang activity. “Our No. 1 priority is taking guns off the street and taking the violence out of our communities,” said Evans. “Operation Wolfgang” is a joint effort among federal, state and local law enforcement to seize drugs, cash, and guns and clear the streets of a drug ring known as the Mozart Street Gang.

46 People Overdose Every Day in the US

According to Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, the arrests of nearly three dozen traffickers will save lives. “Traffickers like these, not only do they rob, shoot and even kill their business rivals and innocents who get caught in the crossfire, they’re responsible for the overdoses that claim three times more lives in Massachusetts than handguns and motor vehicles combined,” said Conley. According to FBI Special Agent Harold Shaw, “Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in the United States, claiming the lives of 46 people every day.” These arrests are also likely to make a dent in the amount of heroin passing through Boston’s city, and suburban, streets. If you are facing charges for any type of criminal offense, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Shannon Grants

MA has awarded $5.7 million in grant funds to support the efforts of law enforcement to clear the streets of gang violence. According to Gov. Charlie Baker, the funds will be distributed to more than a dozen organizations and communities in the Boston area. Part of this funding goes to providing at-risk youth with education and employment opportunities. The hope is that these opportunities will be a welcome alternative for kids who may have otherwise gotten involved with gangs. The so-called “Shannon Grants” are named for Charles Shannon, a police officer who later became a Senator. The cities receiving funding are Boston, Brockton, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield and Taunton. If you have been charged with a crime, contact a MA defense lawyer today.

Gang violence is a problem in Boston, but sometimes people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you are charged with a gang-related crime by association when you did nothing wrong, you will need the assistance of a skilled defense lawyer to avoid getting locked up and paying hefty fines. In some cases, simply being photographed with a person who is flashing a gang sign can be enough to convict you of crime by association.   Continue reading

In 2012, former drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan was caught tampering with evidence and falsifying test results in thousands of criminal drug cases. For her crime, Dookhan spent three years behind bars. But what about the falsified tests? More than 24,000 drug convictions may have been involved in the tampering scandal. What happens to those individuals? On Wednesday the highest court in Massachusetts rejected a proposal to dismiss all 24,000 convictions, with the exception of those directly impacted by Dookhan’s crime.

As many defendants continue to wait for an opportunity to challenge their convictions, this week the Supreme Judicial Court ruled against ordering the dismissal of all 24,000 cases. In addition, the court declined the prosecutors’ recommendation to take no new action. In lieu of a blanket dismissal, the high court is implementing a three-phase system to handle the cases. If you have been charged with a drug crime, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Three-Phase System

Prescription drug abuse is a nationwide problem, and it’s growing. As such, prescription fraud crimes are also on the rise. If you’re facing prescription fraud charges, you could be convicted of drug crimes, but you can also be convicted of forgery. A legal prescription must be signed by a licensed doctor with the appropriate education and credentials to write it. Otherwise, it’s a falsified prescription…and it’s a crime. If you have been charged with prescription drug fraud, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Prescription drug abuse impacts all of us. In the United States, approximately 15 million people abuse prescription drugs. That is a higher number than those who abuse heroin, cocaine, inhalants, and hallucinogens, combined. In fact, one survey revealed that about six percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 25 have abused prescription drugs. In 2005, there were 22,400 drug overdoses in the United States. Of those, 38 percent were the result of opioid painkillers. The most commonly abused prescription drugs are depressants, antidepressants, and opioid painkillers. According to research, one of the problems may be that teens believe prescription drugs to be safer than illegal drugs. About 50 percent of teens surveyed had this misconception.

Fraudulent Prescriptions vs. Valid Prescriptions

Vermont governor Peter Shumlin recently issued 192 pardons to individuals with marijuana convictions, as long as the offenses were not related to DUI charges or violent crimes. This bold move begs the question, will Massachusetts follow suit? Although pot has been decriminalized in Vermont, the green mountain state still hasn’t legalized recreational use. So, if Vermont can pardon those convicted of pot crimes, can’t Mass?

How can people be locked up for something that is no longer a crime? It’s a good question, and a problem that certain MA lawmakers are trying to resolve. A group consisting of the ACLU, Massachusetts Senator Jamie Eldridge, and Horace Small, the Executive DIrector of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, is currently crafting new legislation that would apply marijuana legalization retroactively throughout the state. This new legislation would, in turn, free individuals who are behind bars because of pot. “We’ve approved medical marijuana, decriminalization and now legalization. It shows that the voters don’t believe the people who possess or sell marijuana should be in jail,” said Sen. Eldridge in a recent statement to the Boston Globe.

Behind Bars for a Crime That is No Longer a Crime?

If the group gets its way, “offenders” who are in jail for nonviolent marijuana offenses will be released, and their related criminal records will be expunged. In addition to being fair, retroactive legalization would also help alleviate some of the overwhelming costs associated with mass incarceration in MA. “We have to look at releasing folks who are in jail for marijuana crimes that are no longer crimes,” Small said. “It’s only fair now that the prohibition is over to retroactively erase these records. Sometime in the next month or two we’ll have a piece of legislation.”

But not everyone agrees.

Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson thinks a blanket retroactive measure is unfair. “It’s counterproductive and it undermines the judicial system,” Hodgson said. Further, Hodgson and some others who share his view believe that many offenders are locked up for marijuana charges because of plea deals based on more serious crimes.

But Eldridge and Small agree that releasing violent criminals would be a mistake. “This doesn’t apply to someone working for a cartel or something,” Small said. “We need to look at what’s realistic and what’s over the top — there are a lot of conversations that we need to have.”

It seems that a case-by-case basis for retroactive legalization may be the first step.

In the case of Vermont’s pardoning, the crimes are forgiven and criminal punishments come to a close, but a pardon does not clear an individual’s criminal record. An expungement, on the other hand, does. If Eldridge and Small’s legislation passes, not only will marijuana “offenders” be released from jail, their related criminal records will be wiped clean. If an individual’s pot charge is associated with a violent crime or an OUI, however, expungement is not likely. Immigration status may also come into play. In any case, if you would like to receive an expungement for a marijuana conviction, contact a Boston criminal defense attorney today. Continue reading

If you find yourself at the center of a DEA investigation, your first step should be to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. DEA stands for Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency that was created in the mid-70s to combat an increase in drug-related crime. The DEA is tasked with the enforcement of illegal drug laws. To achieve this goal, DEA agents apprehend offenders and prosecute for civil and criminal crimes.

Depending on the type and quantity of the drug in question, some drug cases require mandatory minimum sentences in Massachusetts. The most common drug offenses in MA are drug possession and drug trafficking. Read on for more information about how the DEA operates in the United States and abroad. And if you are facing drug charges, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today.

DEA Authority

The main role of the DEA is to reduce drug crime and the problems that typically accompany it. To do so, the DEA:

  • Operates a drug intelligence program at the local, state, and international levels.
  • Enforces anti-drug laws.
  • Reduces the availability of illicit drugs.
  • Cooperates with other organizations, such as the United Nations and Interpol, to enforce international anti-drug initiatives and policies.
  • Provides educational programs aimed at reducing U.S. drug abuse through the Demand Reduction Program.
  • Monitors prescription drug activity to reduce illegal distribution.
  • Helps drug crime victims and witnesses through a program called Victim-Witness Assistance.
  • Maintains a list of the Most Wanted Fugitives of drug offenders in the U.S. and abroad.

DEA Intelligence

Three types of drug intelligence are collected by the DEA – strategic, tactical, and investigative – and each type serves a unique purpose. Tactical information is used to make arrests and seizures. Strategic intelligence allows for the creation of effective policies, and investigative data is used during prosecutions. In order to effectively reduce drug crime, more than 680 Intelligence Analysts are positioned in multiple locations across the globe. If you have been charged with any type of drug crime, contact a MA criminal defense attorney today.

All pharmaceutical manufacturing and sales are closely monitored by the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control. To ensure that prescription medications aren’t diverted for illegal use, the Office of Diversion Control requires that workers who handle controlled substances must always:

  • Register with the DEA
  • Keep thorough records
  • Follow all drug security rules

In addition to enforcing the requirements above, this office also monitors and enforces international import-export treaties.

Demand Reduction

The DEA created the Demand Reduction Program (DRP) to reduce the global demand for drugs. This three-tiered approach combines law enforcement, treatment, and prevention through educational information, school programs, and websites. For example, JustThinkTwice.com is a website written for teens and GetSmartAboutDrugs.com is an educational tool for parents. Continue reading

If you have been charged with drug possession, the fines and punishment you are facing will depend on multiple factors. The main considerations will be the class of the drug in question, the amount of the drug in your possession, and what you intended to do with it. If you are only charged with possession, for example, the penalties and fines will likely be much less than if you are charged with possession with intent to distribute. If you are facing drug charges, contact a Boston drug possession defense lawyer today.

Drug Classes

In Massachusetts, drugs are categorized by type and class. The current classifications are:

  • Class A: Heroin and opiates such as Morphine, and certain “designer drugs”, including Ketamine (Special K).
  • Class B: Cocaine, MDMA and Ecstasy, LSD (acid), Amphetamines (speed), Crystal Meth, PCP, Methadone, and some prescription opiates such as Oxycontin and Percocet.
  • Class C: Prescription narcotics and tranquilizers such as Valium and Hydrocodone, some hallucinogenic substances, including mushrooms and peyote.
  • Class D: Phenobarbital, and small doses of certain prescription narcotics. Marijuana was previously also a Class D drug, but effective December 15, 2016, adults can possess and use marijuana in MA.
  • Class E: Very light doses of some prescription narcotics, such as codeine (Tylenol #3).

Cocaine

If you are facing cocaine possession charges, you may find yourself behind bars for up to one year and with a fine of up to $1000, if this is your first offense. In addition, you may lose your license for up to one year. If, however, you are charged with possession with intent to distribute, the penalty is a two-and-a-half year jail sentence and a fine of at least $1,000, up to $10,000. If this is your second or subsequent offense for possession with intent to distribute, you may face a mandatory three year prison sentence, up to $25,000 in fines, and a mandatory three-year loss of your license.

Heroin

A first time heroin possession conviction carries a penalty of not more than two years in jail and a fine of not more than $2,000. Possession with intent to distribute charges bring more severe penalties; up to 10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense. A second offense can land you in prison for up to 15 years, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Defenses

Multiple defenses exist in drug possession cases, including those that involve an intent to distribute. Drug cases are typically based on physical evidence found during a search of your home, car, or person. Police are just as prone to mistakes as other human beings. If any rules were broken during the search, the error may work in your favor. Were your constitutional rights violated? If proper guidelines weren’t followed, evidence may not be admissible. This often results in a reduction in charges, or the charges being dropped altogether. A skilled criminal defense attorney will review the evidence to ensure that protocol was followed to a “T”. If anything during the arrest or investigation seems amiss, an experienced attorney will use it to your advantage. Contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today. Continue reading

Four years ago, Massachusetts state chemist, Annie Dookhan, was convicted of falsifying drug tests and tampering with evidence in thousands of criminal cases. Although Dookhan has completed her three-year prison sentence, many of the individuals whose drug samples she tampered with are still waiting for their time in court. But many groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts, think this process has gone on long enough. They want to find a global remedy – dismissal of the approximately 24,000 cases linked to Dookhan.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments by the ACLU and state public defenders. These groups want the cases in which Dookhan was involved to be dismissed.

“We think vacating these convictions is required to protect the rights of people who have already served their sentences and are living every day with the collateral consequences of those decisions,” said Matthew Segal, the ACLU’s legal director. “It’s also necessary to safeguard the justice system’s integrity, which has been seriously damaged, not just by the scandal itself but by how it’s been handled.”

Prosecutors Disagree

In the eyes of prosecutors, while some of the defendants may have been negatively impacted by Dookhan’s actions, many others would have been found guilty even if Dookhan hadn’t been involved. Beyond drug tests, additional evidence from surveillance videos, cellphone records, and guns was used in many of these cases. “Every case is different and every case should be approached individually,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley. “Our argument is that a global remedy is no remedy at all.” A similar blanket proposal was rejected in 2015. If you are facing drug charges, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

The ACLU and public defenders believe that handling each of the 24,000 cases on a case-by-case basis will be extraordinarily time consuming and unfair to defendants. If, for example, there are several thousand defendants whose case will eventually be dismissed when their case is heard, those defendants may have to wait years if a global remedy is not approved. In the meantime, they have to deal with the repercussions of a conviction, such as difficulty finding housing and employment.

According to the Committee for Public Counsel Services, it will take about 24 years for all 24,000 defendants to be assigned to public defenders. But prosecutors believe that is a gross overstatement. “There is now no pending backlog of Dookhan-related cases, and any defendant who wishes to file a motion to vacation or to withdraw his guilty plea or vacate his conviction can do so in the ordinary course of business with no delay,” said Wark. Continue reading

In my last two postings, we have been discussing the arrest of unfortunate gent who was pulled over, contraband was allegedly found in his car and he turned out to be someone other than he said he was. He was, by the way, someone with an outstanding warrant hanging over his head and someone we hereinafter refer to as the “Defendant”. The case is from the Salem News .

We have been focussing on the criminal procedure aspect of the case. Namely,  a potential motion to suppress in the case to prevent the Commonwealth from prosecuting this case.

 

Attorney Sam’s Take On Search, Seizure And Car Stops

Now, understand that we are simply going off the article here and we are giving full faith and credit to the facts alleged therein. The article is based upon what law enforcement says happened which means that, for this blog, we must presume that those facts are the truth.

As any regular reader to this blog knows, a motion to suppress has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. Like us, the court generally takes the Commonwealth’s version of the facts as true. The issues in a motion to suppress are fairly limited.

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Let’s continue with our story from last Thursday. It was the car stop about which we learned from the Salem News .

Although there is more to say about the stop itself, let’s look at what happened after the stop.

During the traffic stop, the detectives say that they observed wires, unusual wear on the console and plastic shavings on the SUV’s floor. That, along with the flashing brake lights, led them to conclude there was a hidden compartment in the SUV.

Many folks might be suspicious of this claim. However, when officers do this enough time, they tend to learn the “going scheme” in secreting things like drugs and other contraband.

An Everett police sergeant with experience in finding hidden compartments arrived and helped open what turned out to be a metal box under the dashboard, according police. Assisting in this part of the investigation was the Danvers Police K-9 unit which included the police dog Stryka. Stryka was the one who had indicated that there could be drugs near the front seat.

Inside the compartment, officers say that they found 20 small bags of heroin, totaling just under half an ounce (12.8 grams) worth approximately $1,300; 13 small bags of cocaine totaling 5.7 grams, worth approximately $500; and $3,479 in cash.

And so it was that the Defendant was charged with possession of both heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute, failing to stop for police, giving a false name, forging a motor vehicle document, refusing to identify himself and driving after license revocation.

This time around.

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Folks still try…but one very seldom outruns a default warrant for long.

Edgardo Rivera-Alvarado (hereinafter, the “Defendant”), allegedly has just learned this lesson.

According to law enforcement, the Defendant jumped bail seven years ago in a drug trafficking case. Now,41 years of age, he has been  found to have been living in Lowell under the assumed identity of Jose Lopez.  Allegedly.

Lopez was the name on the Defendant’s driver’s license, Social Security card and state of Pennsylvania identification card he handed officers following a traffic stop Friday on Margin Street in Peabody.

Authorities also say they recovered a cache of drugs and money hidden inside his SUV when he was stopped.

He is now an involuntary guest of the Commonwealth, held on $250,000 bail.

According to the Salem News , Peabody detectives were watching a home when they saw the Defendant pull into a driveway, spend about two minutes inside the home, then pull back out.

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