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 Juvenile Crimes

Court records are public domain. Essentially that means that anyone with a few bucks to spend can access your criminal record, arrests, and even your mug shot. An expungement is a process in Massachusetts whereby these records are sealed. Although criminal records are not erased, they become inaccessible to the public, which includes potential employers and landlords. Read on for more information about expungements, if you are eligible to have a prior conviction or arrest expunged, and how to accomplish this liberating task.

If you were arrested but found not guilty, an expungement is a relatively easy process. You can file for an expungement, which will prevent the record of your arrest from being viewed by the public. It will also prevent the record from showing up in an employment or housing background check. If you were convicted, however, things get a bit more complicated. If you have been charged with a crime, contact a MA defense attorney today.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony

If the conviction was for a misdemeanor offense, you can file for an expungement once five years have passed without another conviction. Basically, your record has to remain spotless. If you were convicted of a felony, however, the “spotless record” period increases to 10 years. And much is dependent on the underlying offense. If you were convicted of an OUI, the likelihood of an expungement is good. If it was a sexual offense, you must wait at least 15 years and the process becomes extremely complex. If you are considering getting a felony offense expunged from your record, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today.

The Process

Clearing your record of prior arrests and convictions can have an immensely positive impact on your life. No longer will you be filled with anxiety every time you apply for a job, housing, or even a loan. A positive outcome calls for experienced legal counsel. In theory, you can apply for an expungement on your own, but it is highly inadvisable. A minor error can be the difference between a clean record and a mistake that continues to haunt you for years.

Step one is to file a “Petition to Seal” with the District Court from which the case originated. This can include documents that support your petition, including disadvantages arising from public access to your record, evidence of rehabilitation, and other relevant evidence and circumstances. The next steps include:

  • Preliminary review of your petition: Once filed, the District Court judge will begin to review your petition. If you meet the preliminary requirements for expungement, you will be notified of a court hearing date. If you do not meet the preliminary requirements, you will be notified in writing.
  • Hearing: The purpose of the hearing is to give you an opportunity to tell the court why your record should be expunged. If you hire an attorney, in addition to filing all paperwork above, he or she can speak on your behalf at the hearing.
  • Decision: At the conclusion of your hearing, you will either be given an immediate decision or the judge will take the case under advisement. If the latter, you will be notified by mail of the final decision.
  • Appeals: If the initial decision is not favorable, you can appeal with the MA Appeals Court.

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Most parents understand that it is illegal to provide minors with alcohol, even at a well-controlled, responsible party held at their home. Of course, some still choose to do it. But what if kids consume alcohol in your home without your knowledge? Can you still get in trouble? If you ask Stanford Professor Bill Burnett, who was arrested on 44 counts of contributing to the delinquency of minors in 2012, he would likely give you a resounding yes. Burnett and his wife claim to have provided chips and soda for the kids before going to bed only to be woken up hours later when cops responded to a complaint of underage drinking.

Although Burnett claims to have told his son that absolutely no alcohol was permitted, he was charged under social host laws for each of the 44 teens in attendance at his son’s party that night. Each charge was a misdemeanor offense with penalties of jail time and up to $2,000 in fines. About 18 states have social host liability laws, and Massachusetts is one of them. Social host laws prohibit serving or providing access to alcohol to minors, but simply being present in a home where minors are imbibing – even if you are unaware – may result in legal consequences. In fact, parents may even face criminal charges if they weren’t home during an alcohol-infused teen party. If you are facing charges for providing alcohol to a minor, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today.

As stated in Massachusetts General Law Chapter 138 section 34:

In just about every interaction with law enforcement, you can refuse to answer questions asked by police. However, depending on the circumstances, the outcome may be somewhat different. Whether or not you are in custody at the time of questioning may play a significant role in how police respond to your silence. Often times the police will want to talk to you regarding a crime that you may be a suspect.  Certainly contacting a Boston Criminal defense lawyer is your smartest and safest way to handle this, however, if you choose to speak to the police with an attorney present it’s important to know your rights.  Read on to explore three different scenarios and to learn how “staying mum” can impact the outcome of each.

Silence is Golden

If you are stopped out of the blue, you can refuse to answer police questions. Although the well-known Miranda warning (you have the right to remain silent) won’t be read to you in a brief investigatory stop, it is your right to refuse to answer questions. You may also ask if you are being detained. If you are, you must stay present. However, if police say you are not being detained, you can stop talking and slowly walk – don’t run – away. If you are facing charges for any type of criminal offense, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Background checks are widely used by employers during the pre-employment screening process in Massachusetts and across the country. Depending on the type of background check used, it can show everything from the level of education you’ve attained to whether or not you make your car payment on time each month. Information about credit history, however, is actually declining as a component of background checks, due to controversy. Lots of folks think it’s unfair to base an individual’s employability on his ability, or lack thereof, to make his mortgage payment back in 2011. Criminal background checks, on the other hand, are becoming more prevalent, and thorough, every year. Read on for more information about pre-employment background checks and how they may affect you. If you still have questions, contact a MA defense lawyer today.

Driving History

These reports are especially important to employers when hiring for a position that requires the applicant to drive a company vehicle. A driver history report uncovers whether or not the applicant can legally drive, if he or she has a history of traffic-related drug or alcohol offenses, and if the applicant can be insured to operate a company vehicle. A report from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) shows vehicle-related convictions (such as OUI), actions taken by the DMV (such as license suspension due to excessive points), and past and current addresses used by the applicant.

Criminal Background Checks

This type of background check is commonly used by employers, a fact which shouldn’t be a surprise. For starters, adult convictions are almost always public record, meaning the information can be obtained by anyone with the desire to do the research. If you’ve been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense, you’d better believe it’s going to show up in a pre-employment background check. If you’ve been charged with any type of crime, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

Infractions

What’s an infraction? Technically speaking, an infraction is not a crime. A good example of an infraction is a traffic ticket. The good news – you don’t really need to worry about infractions, and you generally aren’t required to report them to an employer. For example, you wouldn’t list last year’s speeding ticket on an employment application (unless of course you were drunk and in possession of a gun at the time).

What About Probation and Outstanding Warrants?

Probation is a period of court supervision. As an alternative to a jail sentence, probation is treated similarly for reporting purposes. If you are on active probation, it will almost certainly show up on a background check. Likewise with outstanding warrants. If a report shows that you have an outstanding bench or arrest warrant, most employers will immediately disqualify you from the application process. Being a “fugitive” of the justice system doesn’t usually bode well with potential employers. Of course, if the outstanding warrant appears to be a mistake, there may be some room for discussion. But that’s generally the exception, not the rule. Continue reading

College students who commit crimes can be prosecuted just like anyone else. In fact, they are often subject to additional penalties by athletic departments or college administrators.  As you know Massachusetts is loaded with a number of public and private colleges. Most schools have codes of conduct, especially in the case of student athletes. These codes of conduct include academic standards and how the school deals with inappropriate or criminal behavior, such as drug use or sexual assault. For example, the school may suspend a student athlete from participating in sports activities during an investigation into criminal charges. For particularly serious crimes, the school may suspend financial aid, or even permanently expel the student.

Most Common On-Campus Crimes

All types of crimes can, and have been, committed on college campuses, from DUI to assault and battery, to murder. But certain crimes are committed at a much higher rate than others. The most common on-campus crimes include:

  • In 2011, the most commonly reported crime on college campuses was burglary, with a total of 6,712 burglaries that year. The previous year had seen 7,241 burglaries.
  • The second most reported on-campus crime is motor vehicle theft, with more than 1,300 car thefts occurring annually.
  • The third most common on-campus crime is sexual assault, with 1,153 reported in 2011.

Student Courts

Serious offenses, such as those above, will require non-campus law enforcement. However, small offenses may be dealt with by on-campus student courts. Depending on the offense, the student may represent himself or herself in front of a student court. Less serious offenses include underage drinking, hazing crimes, petty theft, marijuana possession, harassment, and bullying. However, as with any type of crime, most on-campus crimes require the assistance of a skilled defense attorney.

An arrest by campus police can hold the same power as an arrest by state and local law enforcement. Many campus police are branches of local law enforcement and have the same powers to secure a warrant and make an arrest. Even if campus police have limited powers, criminal charges can be filed with local law enforcement following an arrest by campus police.

Do College Athletes Get Preferential Treatment?

In most cases, college students who commit crimes receive the same type of punishment as everyone else. However, a recent study revealed that student athletes are much less likely to be prosecuted than their non-athlete counterparts. The ESPN investigation, which studied 20 campuses between 2009 and 2014, found that football and basketball players at the University of Florida who were charged with criminal behavior, were not prosecuted or had the charges dropped more than half the time. In addition to possible preferential treatment, the report also cited other contributing factors, including access to high-profile attorneys and victim intimidation. 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.

There are various periodicals we lawyers read to keep up with not only what is happening system-wide, but also what is up with the rest of the world which we might be missing due to the myopia of our work. One which I quote from often (and thankfully returns the favor from time to time) is the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly . Another is the American Bar Association Journal .  The latter has given me the idea for today’s blog.

According to the Journal, “Pokemon characters are on the loose, and it’s your job to catch and collect them.”

I suppose to those “in the know” that sounds fun. While I don’t know how this works in the “augmented reality” of Pokemon, I do know that not everything that is fun in this world is safe if you would like to keep living in relative freedom.

We are talking about the new “Pokemon Go” app, which uses your phone’s GPS and clock to detect where you are and make Pokemon characters appear on your phone screens. “The Pokemon characters may be in public places such as parks, beaches and even bathrooms, and players have to go to the locations to find them.”

Sounds safe enough, right?

Well, maybe not so much.

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In 1984, the United States passed the Uniform Drinking Age Act to mandate that all states raise the drinking age from 18 to 21. In compliance, the state of Massachusetts raised the legal drinking age in 1985. Since the change, and with rising awareness regarding underage drinking, the state of Massachusetts has adopted a serious zero-tolerance policy. These policies mandate a number of minimum penalties that can include minimum fines, jail time, operator’s license suspensions, and mandatory classes. Contact a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer.

A number of Massachusetts laws cover alcohol related offenses in relation to minors. The most common being minor in possession or transporting alcohol, both criminalized under Massachusetts code chapter 138, section 34c. While the initial penalty of this charge is a maximum $50.00 fine, the other implications are very serious. An alcohol related charge on your permanent record, revocation of driving privileges for 90 days, and increased insurance costs are a few examples of additional repercussions. Even a seemingly minor offense can create a burden for years into the future. Employment background checks, having to claim an offense on applications, difficulty obtaining affordable auto insurance, and even public housing and assistance programs can be affected by a criminal record.

Operating Under the Influence

More serious charges include operating a motor vehicle under the influence (OUI). An OUI, for a minor only requires a very nominal blood alcohol content (BAC). A BAC greater than 0.02% may result in OUI charges. This is compared to the much higher threshold of 0.08% for an adult over the age of 21. A very small amount of alcohol ingested prior to operation of a motor vehicle is all that it takes to charge a minor with OUI. Without proper defense, these cases often result in major penalties. First time offenses can include fines from a minimum of $500 to a maximum of $5000, a 1 year revocation of driving privileges, and up to two and a half years jail time.

False or Fake ID in Massachusetts 

Using false identification to obtain/purchase alcohol is another very serious charge. Any person using or attempting to impersonate another person to obtain false identification documents is subject to severe penalties even for first time offenses. These may include fines up to $500, a maximum of five years in state prison, or a maximum of two years in jail.

No matter the circumstances, underage drinking charges and related charges can be extremely detrimental to a young person; any alcohol related offense for a minor under 21 requires a thoughtful criminal defense. Our attorneys are well versed in alcohol related defenses, and will be at your side throughout the process to ensure all options are explored. Continue reading

A massive fire that took place at an abandoned mill in Haverhill, Massachusetts is the work of four juveniles from the town who are not yet being identified by law enforcement officials. The eight-alarm fire burned down the entire mill located at 30 Stevens Street on Sunday, September 20th. The juveniles in question have been arrested by the Haverhill Police Department and are currently being charged with setting the mill ablaze. They are expected to be arraigned during a juvenile session at Lawrence District Court on Thursday.

Haverhill Police Detective Captain Robert Pistone, who is also the spokesman for the Department, has stated that two of the juveniles in question are 15 years old, one of the juveniles is 14 years old, and another juvenile involved in the fire is 16 years old. Law enforcement officials did not immediately identify the name or gender of the juveniles facing charges for the mill blaze. The Department made their announcement on Wednesday night following their investigation into the matter to determine whether it had been an accident or arson. Continue reading

Prosecutors handling the case for Michelle Carter, a young teen accused of assisting in her boyfriend’s 2014 suicide, have officially charged her with involuntary manslaughter following a hearing for her case in Massachusetts juvenile court. Michelle Carter, who was 17 at the time of Conrad Roy III’s suicide, now 18, was charged after prosecutors found that her correspondence with Roy leading up to his death encouraged the young man to take his own life even after he had expressed doubts to Carter. And while prosecutors will now face the difficult task of proving that these text messages exchanged between the two did in fact contribute to Roy’s death, they feel as though Michelle Carter should be held responsible to some degree for the role that she played in this tragic loss of life.

Prosecutors included multiple text message examples in their written response to the ruling that highlighted what they felt adequately showed how Carter “assisted by urging him (Conrad Roy III) to overcome his doubts about taking his own life, pressuring him to do it and even telling him to get back in his truck after becoming frightened that the plan was working.” And while Carter’s attorney, Joseph Cataldo, has stated that Roy acted consciously to orchestrate his own death and would have done so regardless of what Carter had said, those involved in the case do not agree with Cataldo’s notions.

According to a statement provided by Conrad Roy’s aunt, Becki Maki, his family felt as though Roy was turning his life around following a previously unsuccessful attempt at suicide in which Roy ingested pain killers in an effort to take his own life. He had spent time in a psychiatric hospital following the incident and was positively looking forward to the new chapters in his life. He graduated from high school and was in pursuit of his sea captain’s license. His family truly believed that Conrad Roy was starting to see the light again following his periods of darkness. Roy’s grandfather, also named Conrad, has said that Michelle Carter “…shut the light off,” for the young man and his family when she encouraged Conrad Roy III to take his own life in July of 2014.

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