Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

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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In my last blog, we discussed two pending cases involving Massachusetts dentists. One was charged for sexual assault and the other was for using his position to get drugs illegally.

We started discussing similarity “between the lines” with the two cases.  It comes down to the fact that they are both “high profile” cases.

Attorney Sam’s Take On The Changes Involved In High Profile Cases

For more years than I care to remember, I have handled “high profile” cases .

In the previous century, I began my professional career as a prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York. There was no shortage of high-profile criminal prosecutions. It was the 1980s, the early days of the crack epidemic, a high point in racial unrest and the changing of how much the media affected criminal cases. I saw from the point of view of the prosecutor the considerations and how they change when the matter is in the public Eye.

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This has been a bad week for dentists of the Commonwealth already…and it’s only Wednesday!

Let’s start with a Worcester dentist  arrested Monday after allegedly indecently assaulting an adult patient.

According to law enforcement, police responded at around 11:00 am to a report of a woman claiming to have been indecently assaulted. The 35-year-old female complainant reported that during her 9 a.m. appointment with her long-term dentist, Dr. Nikilkumar (Nikhil) Patel, 54, he touched her inappropriately on several occasions.

The woman said that she  immediately got up from the dentist chair and left the office, police said. The sexual assault unit was sent to meet with the woman and, after that meeting, went to the office of Dr. Patel.

After the brief meeting, they took him into custody.

According to Boston.com,   Dr. Patel was charged with indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14.

He was arraigned yesterday at Worcester District Court.

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In my last posting, we spoke about a particular defendant who was arrested for drug crimes. Members of his family were also arrested at the scene for, basically, trying to prevent the arrest from taking place as the officers had intended it. Let’s call them, collectively, the “Defendant Family”.

On Thursday, I indicated that the Defendant Family would already be  affected by their arrest even if they ended up being found “not guilty”.

What many people still do not realize is that you do not need to be convicted to lose your “innocence” under the law.

A Clerk Magistrate hearing takes place in some cases before an arraignment. There is no judge at such a hearing, only a Clerk Magistrate. The purpose of the hearing is to decide if there is probable cause for the Clerk Magistrate to issue a criminal complaint. Should the criminal complaint issue, the next step is an arraignment.

This is why the Clerk Magistrates hearing is so critical to a defendant. It is the last stop before an arraignment. It is more than worth doing all that you can, usually through counsel, to get one. We have discussed the requirements and procedures for this in earlier blogs and, I am sure, will return to them again at some point.

But not today.

As you know, an arraignment is the first time a criminal defendant appears before a judge. At the arraignment, a defendant effectively loses his or her presumption of innocence.

“Sam, how can that be? We are all told that the presumption of innocence never ends unless and until the government proves the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before a judge or jury.”

You’re right. That is what we are told. In some cases, it is actually close to true.

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