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 Illegal Weapons Possession

There are few things as controversial as the debate about the right to own a firearm in this country. Gun ownership is a constitutional right, but many people are prohibited from owning one. This is especially true in Massachusetts. Although the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms to every citizen, regulations surrounding use and ownership are left to the state. In MA, firearm use and ownership is highly regulated and laws are strictly enforced.

Proper enforcement of gun laws is important given the dangers of misuse. But mistakes and misunderstandings happen. If you were charged with illegal possession of a firearm, a skilled Boston defense attorney can help you protect your rights. In MA, you may be facing illegal possession charges if:

  • You are found in possession of a firearm without the required license.
  • You are found in possession of an illegal firearm, such as a machine gun or sawed-off shotgun.

In the first scenario above, a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months in prison may follow. Possession of a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun, however, carries even stiffer penalties. For this crime, you could be facing life in prison. MA’s  gun laws are among the harshest in the country. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

Other Types of Possession Charges

In some cases, a person can commit a gun crime even if he is licensed to own the gun and the gun meets state regulations. Some of these situations include:

  • Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony Offense: If you are found in possession of a firearm while committing a felony, you can be charged for more than the underlying crime. For example, if you are arrested for a fourth-offense OUI with your gun in the car, you will likely be charged with a felony OUI offense and a firearm violation, even if you are normally allowed to carry the gun. The penalties if convicted of this crime are serious – a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. And this is above and beyond the penalties for the underlying crime.
  • Carrying a Loaded Firearm While Intoxicated or Under the Influence of Drugs: If you are carrying a gun while drunk or drugged, you may be looking at up to two-and-a-half years behind bars and a $5,000 fine.

If you are facing illegal possession charges, you might think there’s no hope. But a knowledgeable lawyer can be of immense benefit to the outcome of your case. For starters, he or she will analyze whether your rights were violated during the arrest. If they were, some of the evidence used against you might have to be thrown out. For example, if the gun was seized from your home or vehicle during an “unreasonable search,” that evidence cannot be used to prosecute you.

In other cases, you may have been unaware that you possessed the weapon at the time of the arrest. For example, if you are found in a vehicle with a gun in the glove compartment, but you were unaware of its presence, a knowledgeable attorney may be able to get the case dismissed. Continue reading

As of 2014, residents of Massachusetts are prohibited from owning firearms if they’ve been convicted of any type of domestic violence crime. That being said, no law is currently in place requiring courts to notify those affected by this legislation. If you have been found with a firearm following a domestic violence conviction, it is crucial to consult with an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney immediately. MA takes gun charges seriously, especially when the defendant has a past criminal history.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms to all citizens of the United States, except under certain circumstances. For example, if you are convicted of a felony, you give up your rights under the Second Amendment. In some cases, individuals can restore their civil rights following a felony conviction. But this is rare. You may be prohibited from possessing a firearm if you:

  • Were convicted of a juvenile crime.

On Tuesday, five new trauma response teams are launching in an effort to help residents of Boston’s high-crime neighborhoods cope with violence. According to Mayor Martin Walsh, this initiative was created in response to residents’ concerns. The effort, which will consist of health centers and community organizations, will be led by Walsh and the Boston Public Health Commission.

Outreach organizations will be set up in Roxbury’s Whittier Street Health Center, Jamaica Plain’s Tree of Life, the Four Corners Actions Coalition of Dorchester, and North Suffolk Mental Health of East Boston. In addition, a mobile vendor will host a 24-hour crisis hotline.

“We spent May to August of last year hosting 14 community listening sessions and heard from over 350 residents and providers,” said Catherine Fine, the Division of Violence Prevention director. “We asked them what they’d like to see in their neighborhoods following a traumatic event. And this is what we heard they wanted.”

Even when a traumatic event occurred in the distant past, teams will provide assistance if requested. “Someone may, following an event, feel like they don’t want to connect to someone,” said Fine. “And they can take support or access teams at any time, a year later, two years later.”

What is a Traumatic Event?

For the purpose of this new initiative, a traumatic event includes gun-related homicides, shootings that affect anyone under age 18 or multiple victims, and any traumatic event involving a child. According to Fine, in addition to providing assistance to victims, the initiative aims to inform residents that just because an area has a high crime rate, criminal activity doesn’t go unnoticed. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a criminal offense.

“We want community members to know the city cares,” said Fine. “We want to connect with residents to let them know there are services that are available.” Those involved with the initiative will inform the community of ongoing efforts through community meetings, door-to-door informational campaigns, and healing sessions. “The fact that we are sort of knitting together more of a system connecting these entities together is unique,” she said. “We hope it’s the start of a very positive model.”

Gang Violence in Boston Neighborhoods

Although this new initiative is aimed at helping residents cope with any type of crime-related traumatic event, much of the violent crime in the Boston area is due to gang activity. One of the most notorious gangs in Boston is the MS-13, a violent gang whose motto is “mata, viola, controla’’ — kill, rape, control.

MS-13 targets public high school students, mostly immigrants, and often recruits kids as young as 14 years old. They pull from many Boston neighborhoods, but Chelsea, East Boston, and Everett are typically hardest hit. “Mentors” assist them throughout the initiation process, which usually involves a combination of illegal drug activity, theft, rape and other forms of violent crime. A MA defense attorney can help if your child has gotten caught up in gang activity. Continue reading

Following a shooting that occurred at the South Shore Plaza earlier this month, town officials are meeting to discuss how to improve security at the mall. The meeting between South Shore’s General Manager Rick Tonzi, the town’s mayor Joseph Sullivan, and Chief of Police Paul Shastany is not the first of its kind to discuss the incident. On Wednesday, Tonzi refused to attend a meeting of the town council’s public safety committee, emailing the following statement about the policies of the mall’s owner, Simon Property Group: “Simon does not publicly comment on what we do and don’t do on security at South Shore Plaza.”

Tonzi’s failure to attend the town council meeting was met with displeasure by Town Councillor, Charles Kokoros. “I think it’s a little disrespectful to the council and the committee,” he said. The shooting, which occurred in the shoe department of the Macy’s store, is believed to be linked to Boston gang rivalries. According to investigators, previously “neutral” territories have become fair game in these gang wars.”It’s a serious incident and we’re treating it very seriously,” said Sullivan.

A statement from mall management claims that management has a good relationship with the mayor’s office and Braintree police and that it practices joint training exercises with law enforcement “to ensure that all organizations are adequately prepared in emergency response procedures.”

Town Councillors and attorneys for the mall believe that the shooting was an isolated incident that happened in the mall, but not because of the mall. Even so, it’s a grave reminder that previously “safe spaces” can become dangerous if gang activity is not kept in check. “Wherever they encounter, that’s the venue for violence,” said Shastany.

What is the Solution?

Dealing with the underlying issue of gang violence is paramount to improving safety in Boston and the surrounding areas. But this is not a problem that can be eliminated overnight. In the meantime, South Shore Plaza and similar shopping centers can take safety precautions to protect customers and the general public. Kokoros would like to see increased law enforcement presence and security cameras at South Shore Plaza, for instance. Currently, there are three police officers on duty at the mall.

And the argument for more cameras may be a good one. According to Shastany, pictures from the existing security cameras were instrumental in identifying shooting suspect Michael J. Spence. The 24-year-old Quincy man is facing firearms charges for his role in the shooting.

The Rise in Gang Violence

Fortunately, no one was injured in the South Shore Plaza shooting, but gang violence is on the rise in Boston and the surrounding areas. Consider the violent street gang, MS-13, whose motto is “Mata, viola, controla” or kill, rape, control. MS-13 is based in El Salvador and has about 30,000 members worldwide, many in the Boston area. MS-13 targets young people, often as young as 14 or 15. To become a “homeboy” the young person is told to commit a serious crime, sometimes the murder of a rival gang member. If you are worried that a child or loved one has been swept up in this kind of violence and crime, it is in your best interest to contact a MA criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Due to their young ages, gang members may be able to avoid jail time and the more severe penalties reserved for adults. However, without the help of a skilled Boston criminal defense attorney, violent offenders may still be tried as adults. Continue reading

The answer to this question is, it depends on the circumstances. A secret purchase made by one person to obtain a firearm for someone who cannot own a weapon is illegal. This is known as a straw purchase. If the person for whom the gun is being purchased is not disclosed to the seller, the seller is not able to run a background check for the intended owner. As background checks are an important component of the purchasing process, the straw purchase is a big no-no. Guns are dangerous weapons, and trying to evade the rules of ownership can put you behind bars.

But What About Gifts?

Straw purchases are illegal, yes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always illegal to buy a gun for another person. Let’s say I want to buy a gun for my husband, as a gift. I can do this…but I have to follow guidelines set forth by the law. In Massachusetts, residents are required to report any sale or transfer of a weapon within seven days of the sale or transfer. This applies to gifts as well. Yes, you can purchase a gun as a gift for another person. No, you cannot purchase a gun for someone that you know cannot legally own a gun. In fact, doing so is a federal felony. Even if you didn’t know, but should have known, you can be in hot water. If you’re not 100% confident that the intended recipient can legally own a gun, play it safe. You can always go to a gun retailer, purchase a gift certificate, and give that as the gift.

Last week, police announced the seizure of 83 guns, with 10,000 rounds of ammo and a Nazi helmet from the house of a Massachusetts man. Robert Ivarson, 49, of Lexington, is facing civil rights and harassment charges for allegedly littering the driveway of a black family with banana peels. Following the discovery of the weapons arsenal, Ivarson is facing 13 new charges. In addition to the guns and ammo, law enforcement also found 50 pounds of black powder in the man’s residence.

Ivarson faces multiple counts of possession of a firearm without a license, possession of ammunition without a license, and possession of a large-capacity feeding device. He also faces one count of being an armed career criminal. According to investigators, Ivarson was under video surveillance at the time of the banana incident. He allegedly threw the peels onto the victim’s property on three consecutive days. According to CBS, Ivarson is currently on house arrest, facing hate crime charges. He will be arraigned for the weapons charges this week. If you’ve been charged with any type of criminal offense, contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Hate Crimes

According to Massachusetts state Attorney General Maura Healey, there has been an increase in reports of harassment of minorities, immigrants, and Muslims since the election. In response, Healey created a hotline for MA residents to report hate crimes.  “This is just about making sure that people understand that we’re going to protect their rights, we’re going to work to protect their safety, and there is no place for  bias-motivated threats, harassment or violence anywhere here in Massachusetts,” said Healey.

Hate Crime Punishment

So, what is the punishment for a hate crime in Massachusetts? And what constitutes a hate crime? Generally speaking, a hate crime is a traditional crime that is motivated by a bias toward a person who is a member of a protected group. For example, throwing a rock threw a random window is a crime, but not a hate crime. If, however, the rock is thrown into the window because the occupant is black, gay, Muslim, or a member of another protected group, it is probably a hate crime.

In the state of MA, there are three elements to a hate crime:

  • Underlying crime: This can be property damage, assault, or battery.
  • Intent: The act must not have been an accident. Rather, the offender must have acted to intimidate or threaten the victim.
  • Victim’s protected status: Protected status includes race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity.

Generally speaking, hate crimes are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office. In some cases, however, the defendant may be prosecuted civilly instead of criminally, or in addition to criminal charges. If you’ve been charged with any type of crime, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today. Continue reading

In Massachusetts, getting charged with a firearms or weapons offense is serious business. MA is exceedingly tough when it comes to gun laws. This is for obvious reasons; misuse of guns can quickly and easily lead to serious injuries and death. If you have been charged with any type of firearms or weapons offense, it is in your best interest to contact a MA criminal defense attorney immediately. Don’t take these charges lightly; this is not the time to hire a cut-rate lawyer or attempt to represent yourself.

Gun Controversy

Gun laws have been surrounded by controversy for years, and the issue isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. The 2nd Amendment does, indeed, guarantee the right to bear arms, but individual states can regulate use. Massachusetts criminalizes many weapons-related actions, from carrying weapons deemed excessively dangerous to using a silencer. Read on for more information about weapons laws and how they can impact you.

What is a “Dangerous” Weapon?

You can be charged with carrying a dangerous weapon for multiple reasons. Depending on the unique circumstances of your case, you can end up behind bars for more than two-and-a-half years if you’re convicted of this offense. You may be facing these charges for:

  • Possession of a machine gun
  • Possession of a sawed-off shotgun
  • Possession of brass knuckles, throwing stars, or nunchucks
  • Having any type of firearm in your vehicle without the proper permit

Silencers

Silencers muffle the sound of a gunshot. In MA, it is illegal to sell, use, or possess a silencer. If you are found in violation of this law, you may be facing felony charges.

Carrying a Loaded Gun While Intoxicated

It is a felony to carry a loaded firearm while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or narcotics. If you are facing charges for this type of offense, contact a Boston gun crimes lawyer today.

Carrying a Shotgun or Rifle on Public Grounds

If you are caught carrying one of these types of firearms on public grounds, such as a sidewalk or street, you can face up to two years in prison, if it’s loaded. If the weapon happens to be a loaded “large capacity weapon”, which refers to a semiautomatic weapon with a capacity for multiple rounds, you may be looking at a sentence of up to 10 years. If it’s unloaded, you may be let off with a fine.

Committing a Felony While in Possession of a Firearm

Committing a felony is bad. Committing a felony while you have a gun in your pocket is even worse. For a first offense, you will likely receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Second and subsequent offenses carry a minimum of 20 years in prison. And this is in addition to penalties associated with the underlying felony. Bottom line – don’t commit a felony, and definitely don’t commit a felony while carrying a gun. Continue reading

Usually, a stroll to the local CVS Pharmacy is something that you can assume will be non-eventful.

Not in Stoughton. Not last week.

Last week, three kids allegedly entered a Stoughton CVS, had words with another teen and then shot him.

In Twelve Step programs, one of the steps to recovery is to “make amends” to people you have wronged. Well, while I am not involved in such a program at present, I do owe you, my readers, an amends. I left you hanging during the police cam festivities, hinting that I was going to be returning to shining the light of truth on that notorious department…the Department of Children and Families.

Well, the police cam controversy is over for now and I will wait a bit longer before I return to the truth of …Them. Instead, let’s look at a more recent criminal case about which you should be aware.

Especially given the fact that we are probably going to be inundated with data from the police cams.

It involves a criminal appeal which, lo and behold, actually recognizes a particular reality  which we have discussed many times in this blog.

Continue reading

Well, last week was supposed to house “the day”. Police Body Cam Day. Certain Boston Police Officers were to be dragged, apparently screaming and kicking, into the controversial body-cam pilot program.

As you may recall, this was going to be a voluntary selection. To sweeten the experience, the Department even offered a sizable financial bonus to said volunteers.

Not enough though.

Despite expectations that the blue-clad folks who claim to always act according to the great trust we place on them…no such volunteers showed up, according to the Boston Herald.

You might find this somewhat surprising. After all, the police and prosecutors often take the position that they cannot understand why folks would be afraid to be videotaped in the outside world…unless they are doing something wrong. Similarly, they cannot comprehend why one would not run to the police if they are the victim of a crime (as in the “first reporter is the victim” scenario we have discussed).

They regularly intimate to civilians that, if they feel they cannot simply be candid, and need unnecessary and evil creatures like defense attorneys present, then they must have something to hide.

After all, of course, as one attorney who regularly represents officers tells us, “Officers usually do the right thing, so they should get it on film.”

Sounds reasonable enough.

But.

Continue reading

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