Articles Posted in Juvenile Crimes

What Constitutes Disorderly Conduct in Massachusetts?

Over 2,000 people a year find themselves under arrest for disorderly conduct in Massachusetts. But what exactly is disorderly conduct? Often used as a catch-all offense when someone acts in a way that is likely to upset others, disorderly conduct actually applies to a range of activities. So if you engage in any number of behaviors that annoy the public at large, you may face a charge of disorderly conduct in Massachusetts.

While each state has its own laws about what constitutes disorderly conduct, Massachusetts defines it as “behavior that tends to disturb the public tranquility or to alarm or provoke others.” It includes fighting and threatening, engaging in agitated behavior that causes a public nuisance, and acting in a way that poses a hazard to public safety or creates a physically offensive condition for no justifiable reason.

Facing a Malicious Damage Charge in MA?

Any type of property damage—from vandalism and graffiti to hitting another’s property with your car—can result in a criminal charge for malicious damage. As with most crimes, penalties for malicious damage are largely dependent on the circumstances of the case, the severity of the offense, and whether or not you have a prior criminal record.

What are the Penalties?

Penalties for malicious damage vary widely based on whether you acted deliberately or carelessly. Willful and malicious actions can carry a potential sentence of up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to three times the cost of the damage or $3,000, whichever is greater. If, on the other hand, you acted carelessly or wantonly, you may be facing a penalty of up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to three times the cost of the damage or $1,500, whichever is greater. Damage of less than $250 is punished much less severely, but can still land you in jail for up to two-and-a-half months.

Leaving the Scene

Let’s say you are driving one night when you hit and knock down a stop sign. Having just left a bar, you’re worried that you might be over the legal limit, so you leave the scene of the accident. Another driver gets your license plate number and reports the incident. You might end up facing two criminal charges—one for malicious damage and one for leaving the scene of property damage. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Can Malicious Destruction to Property be a Felony?

If you damage or vandalize certain types of property in MA, you may face felony charges. These specific buildings or locations have special protections due to their sacred or sensitive natures. If you destroy or deface any of the property below, you may be charged with a felony:

  • Church
  • Synagogue
  • Mosque
  • Any house of worship
  • Cemetery or any type of burial ground
  • Memorial
  • School
  • Community center
  • Educational institution

In addition, if you cause more than $5,000 of damage to any of the above properties, you may face up to five years in prison. At less than $5,000, the potential penalties are up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to three times the cost of the damage or $2,000, whichever is greater. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with malicious damage or another crime.

What About Graffiti?

Even as graffiti becomes more accepted and celebrated as a form of art, intentionally making graffiti on another’s property remains a criminal offense. Property can include walls, fences, signs, monuments, or buildings. It even includes rocks. Graffiti, also known as defacement of property, carries a potential penalty of up to three years in jail, and up to three times the cost of the damage or $1,500, whichever is greater. A defacement of property conviction may also lead to a one-year license suspension. Continue reading

It is illegal in all 50 states to purchase, and even to possess, alcohol if you are under the age of 21.  And although it is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol, individuals under age 21 are prohibited from driving with even the slightest trace of alcohol in their system. For example, while in most states the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is anything below 0.08 percent for “of age” drivers, a BAC of 0.02 percent or less can result in an OUI if you’re under 21. This law is referred to as Zero Tolerance.

In MA, due to Zero Tolerance Laws, it is a crime for drivers under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher. In layman’s terms, you don’t need to feel drunk—or even buzzed—to get an OUI if you’re under 21 in MA. Although these laws are intended to prevent the dangers of underage drinking, they can sometimes do more harm than good. Imagine, for example, that 20-year-old Brandi is home from college to celebrate her sister’s engagement. To toast her sister’s future, Brandi has a glass of champagne before heading to a local restaurant for a celebratory dinner. On the way there, she gets pulled over because her headlight is out. The officer asks Brandi if she’s been drinking and she innocently replies that she had one glass of champagne. The officer gives her a breath test and it measures her BAC at 0.02 percent. She is arrested and charged with OUI.

Isn’t Zero Tolerance a Little Excessive?

Zero Tolerance laws weren’t created to punish people like Brandi. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), when it comes to fatal car crashes involving 15 to 20-year-old drivers, nearly one-third are alcohol-related. Zero tolerance laws aim to combat this serious problem. Young drivers are about twice as likely to be involved in an alcohol-related crash. A Boston OUI defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with an OUI or underage drinking.

And MA is actually a bit more lenient on underage drinking and driving than some other states. The National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995 made it a matter of law for every state in the nation to use a BAC of 0.02 percent or lower when determining if an underage driver can be charged with OUI. In addition, a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher will result in a “per se offense,” which means that intoxication doesn’t have to be proven to charge the individual with OUI.

Zero Tolerance Laws Seem to be Helping

The NHTSA conducted a study of 24 states—12 with Zero Tolerance laws and 12 without—to see if there were any noticeable differences in crashes involving young people and alcohol. The results revealed that Zero Tolerance states had 20 percent less fatal nighttime crashes involving single cars. Considering that nighttime crashes are far more likely to involve alcohol, these results are significant. A MA OUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with underage OUI.

The bottom line—if you are under the age of 21, never get behind the wheel if you’ve had anything to drink. You don’t have to be drunk to get an OUI if you are underage. An OUI conviction can have longterm consequences, affecting your ability to get a job and increasing your insurance premiums, to name a few. Continue reading

Child abuse is a crime, there is no question about that. But what about the failure to report child abuse? If you suspect that a child has been abused, do you have to speak up? Is failing to do so a crime?

It depends.

Mandated Reporters

Certain people are required to report child abuse due to their profession. In MA, these people are called Mandated Reporters. Individuals designated as mandated reporters include:

  • Teachers and other school personnel
  • Social workers
  • Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel
  • Counselors and other mental health personnel
  • Child care providers
  • Foster parents
  • Clergy
  • Medical examiners
  • Police and other law enforcement

If you are a mandated reporter and you fail to report child abuse, you may be charged with a misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $1,000. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

What if I’m Not a Mandated Reporter?

In MA, as in most states, failure to report child abuse is not specifically charged as a crime. However, every case is unique. In the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, for example, victims have called for the criminal punishment of the individuals who failed to report his abuse of hundreds of young girls and at least one boy.

In Michigan—where Nassar abused his victims—state legislators have proposed several bills that would increase penalties for failure to report child abuse from a misdemeanor offense to a felony with fines of up to $5,000.

But this topic begs the question – why wouldn’t you report child abuse? If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, reporting that mistreatment is the right thing to do. Fortunately in MA, as in most states, you can file an anonymous report. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a crime.

What is Considered Child Abuse?

There is a lot of gray area when it comes to child abuse and neglect. For example, in 2014 a Florida mom was charged with felony child neglect for letting her seven-year-old child walk to a nearby park by himself. However, not all cases are as ambiguous. Some types of child abuse, including sexual or physical abuse and depriving a child of food and water, should be reported immediately.

In the United States, approximately four children die from child abuse or neglect every day. Most are under the age of four. Child abuse is often associated with a medical or emotional disorder, such as alcohol abuse, depression and drug addiction. In many cases, the abuser was abused as a child.

In MA, child abuse is defined as “the non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child under age 18 which causes, or creates a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury; or constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth; or any sexual contact between a parent/guardian/caretaker and a child under 18.”

Child abuse, which can occur both at home and in other environments, includes:

  • exposing a child to domestic violence;
  • having a baby that is born with an addiction to narcotics; and
  • mistreatment of a physical, sexual or emotional nature.

Child neglect, on the other hand, is the failure of a parent or care giver to meet the child’s basic needs for food, shelter, clothing, supervision and other emotional needs. Continue reading

Tim Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State University, died last year due to injuries sustained in a hazing incident. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which was supposed to be alcohol-free due to a previous suspension, led Piazza and several other pledges through a hazing ritual dubbed “the gauntlet.” Surveillance videos show a heavily-intoxicated Piazza falling several times throughout the night, including once down a flight of stairs. In total, 18 Beta Theta Pi members were criminally charged for their involvement in Piazza’s death.

In September, Judge Allen Sinclair threw out several charges against fraternity members, including some of the most serious. But last week, Pennsylvania District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller refiled some of those charges, including those for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. “Today we refiled the previously dismissed charges for Tim Piazza’s unnecessary death,” said Parks Miller. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Piazza’s family believes that the reckless behavior of the defendants was directly responsible for the death of their son. According to their official statement, the fraternity brothers abandoned Piazza when they realized he was in “dire trouble.” In addition to seeking justice for their son, the family also wants to ensure that this type of behavior is stopped.

“Had it not been for the crimes committed that night, Tim would be with us today,” said Piazza’s family in the statement. “This is about bringing justice to a group of individuals who felt they were above the law and entitled to abuse and torture others because it was ‘tradition.’ This is also about justice for Tim and making a statement that this behavior is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue to harm others.”

Are Universities Responsible?

In one of recent history’s largest criminal cases against a fraternity, 18 members of Beta Theta Pi were charged in more than 1,000 counts. Piazza’s death has prompted a nationwide discussion about university oversight of fraternities. Penn State claims it was not responsible for enforcing the fraternity’s prohibition on alcohol, and has since banned the chapter from the campus.

“This is a huge challenge because we don’t own the houses, we don’t own the property, we aren’t the national organization governing fraternities,” said Penn State’s president, Eric Barron.

In addition to the aforementioned felony charges, other charges against fraternity members include reckless endangerment, tampering with evidence, furnishing alcohol, and hazing. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

University Crack Down

The Piazza case is just one of several deadly hazing rituals at U.S. colleges and universities in recent years. Deaths at Baruch College, Fresno State University and Northern Illinois University, among others, may have been chalked up to “boys being boys” in years past. But each of these hazing-related deaths has resulted in criminal charges. Institutions of higher learning are also cracking down on binge drinking and sexual assault, banning hundreds of fraternity chapters from operating on campus, and prohibiting freshman from pledging at all. Continue reading

On September 14, an 18-year-old college student from Roswell, Georgia was killed during a hazing incident at Louisiana State University. Maxwell Gruver died of complications related to acute alcohol intoxication while trying to join Phi Delta Theta. Students hoping to be accepted into a particular fraternity or sorority are called pledges. When pledging a fraternity or sorority, the student will likely have to attend mandatory meetings, social activities, and other events. Hazing, however, should not be a requirement.

Hazing is frowned upon by most colleges and universities, and in many cases, it’s criminal. Hazing is an action or situation intended to make the pledge uncomfortable. It is generally reckless, and can endanger the student’s mental or physical health. In the case above, witnesses claim that Gruver was made to drink at least 10 “pulls” of hard liquor on the evening before his death. According to officials, the freshman’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.495 percent, more than six times Louisiana’s legal limit for driving.

Felony Negligent Homicide Charge

Ten people were arrested for misdemeanor hazing that lead to Gruver’s death. One of those arrested, Patrick Forde, is from Westwood, Massachusetts. Another defendant, Matthew Alexander Naquin, is facing a felony negligent homicide charge for his role in Gruver’s death. According to witnesses, Naquin disliked Gruver. He targeted the young pledge, forcing him to drink more than everyone else.

The morning after the hazing incident, fraternity members found Gruver lying on a couch, and were unsure if he was breathing. He was rushed to Baton Route hospital, where he later died. All of the 10 suspects, ages 18 to 21, were Phi Delta Theta members. The LSU chapter has been closed by the fraternity’s national office.

‘‘The ramifications of hazing can be devastating,’’ said LSU President F. King Alexander. ‘‘Maxwell Gruver’s family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences – all due to a series of poor decisions.’’ A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been charged with hazing, or any other criminal offense.

Criminal Penalties for Hazing

Many universities have policies specifically banning hazing. Further, the dangerous ritual can result in criminal penalties, including up to 30 days in jail. And negligent homicide can carry a penalty of five years in prison. Despite the consequences, some fraternity and sorority chapters still engage in hazing. In February, a Penn State student was killed in an alcohol-related hazing incident involving the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. To date, 14 of that fraternity’s members are facing criminal charges in that student’s death.

Investigators working on the LSU hazing case are studying text messages, and have learned of possible videos. They have also gathered additional evidence, including a bag containing a “pledge test.” A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with hazing, or any other crime. Continue reading

If you are caring for a child – whether your own or someone else’s – you have a legal responsibility to keep that child away from unreasonably harmful or dangerous situations. If you put a child in an unhealthy, inappropriate, or dangerous situation, or you don’t intervene to help remove a child from such a situation, you may be charged with child endangerment. In MA, child endangerment is a serious crime with equally serious consequences.

Children are vulnerable. As adults, it is our responsibility to protect them to the best of our abilities. Child endangerment, abuse, and neglect are punished harshly, and being convicted of any of these crimes can bring a lifetime of consequences. In addition to imprisonment and hefty fines, crimes related to child welfare can ruin your reputation, and negatively impact your ability to get a job or find housing for the rest of your life. Prosecutors can be especially aggressive when it comes to child endangerment cases; nobody wants to go easy on someone who harmed an innocent child. For this reason, child endangerment charges often get blown out of proportion.

OUI with a Child in the Vehicle

One of the most common types of child endangerment charges involves a parent who is arrested for OUI with a child in the vehicle. We all know that drunk driving is illegal, and that doing so with a child is even worse. But people make mistakes…even parents. Let’s say, for example, that Stacy goes to a friend’s house for dinner. She takes her four-year-old twins, Nolan and Chloe. Stacy has two glasses of wine with dinner, knowing that she’ll be fine to drive after a big meal and the passing of several hours. But Stacy’s mom calls from the hospital; she’s having heart palpitations. Stacy scoops up the twins and rushes to the hospital. In a panic, she fails to come to a complete stop at a stop sign and gets pulled over. The officer smells alcohol on Stacy’s breath, and asks her to get out of the vehicle. Stacy submits to a breath test, which registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.09. Stacy is arrested for OUI and winds up facing additional charges for child endangerment.
Common Types of Child Endangerment

The point of the story above is not that Stacy didn’t do anything wrong. She did. Rather, it is to illustrate that even a good parent can make a mistake that endangers a child. In the above case, the prosecution may paint a very different picture of Stacy. Over-dramatizing child endangerment cases is very effective for the prosecution. For this reason, it is crucial to work with a highly-experienced Boston criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with child endangerment or a similar crime. Common types of child endangerment include:

  • OUI with a child in the vehicle
  • Failure to properly secure a child in a moving vehicle (car seat, seat belt, etc.)
  • Exposing a child to drug use, manufacturing, or distribution
  • Failure to properly secure firearms in the presence of a child
  • Leaving a young child without supervision
  • Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child

The interesting thing about child endangerment laws is that they are intended to punish behavior that could harm a child, but a child doesn’t need to be harmed for a conviction to occur. For example, if loaded firearms are kept in reach of a child, the responsible adult could be convicted of child endangerment even the child never touched one of the firearms. Of course, cases involving actual harm will generally be punished more severely than those that do not result in injury. A MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with child endangerment.

Intent is also considered when determining punishment in a child endangerment case. If the adult did not intend for the child to be exposed to the harmful situation, the penalties will likely be less severe than if he had. That being said, intent is not necessary to convict someone of child endangerment. As long as a reasonable person would have realized that the situation was dangerous, that is generally enough to convict. For example, leaving a young child in a car unattended can be a form of child endangerment. However, leaving a child in an air-conditioned car for five minutes is very different from leaving a child in a hot car for 45 minutes. In the first scenario, a reasonable person wouldn’t necessarily consider the situation to be dangerous, whereas most reasonable people would find the second scenario to be dangerous. Continue reading

According to Boston police, MIT’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity house was being “operated as a nightclub” on Sunday night, complete with a DJ and strobe lights. The fraternity failed to obtain the City of Boston License Division’s approval, but the problems don’t stop there. Underage drinking, a waterfall pouring down a marble staircase, and other hazardous conditions have resulted in the issuance of a violation to the fraternity’s president.

The inspection of the premises came after Boston police saw a “line of approximately 40 college-aged persons awaiting entry” into the fraternity house. During the inspection, detectives talked to a fraternity member who was stationed at the front door to record the number of people inside the building. When asked by police, he responded that there were 116 people inside.

Staircase Waterfalls and Underage Drinking

On Monday, four men who were initially charged with murder pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter for the 2013 hazing death of would-be fraternity brother, Chun Hsien Deng. The 18-year-old student died at a weekend retreat for potential Baruch College members of the Pi Delta Psi, an Asian-American fraternity.

In December 2013, Deng traveled to a rental house in the Poconos for a hazing ritual that – according to a statement by Baruch College – would never have been allowed on campus. In the early morning hours, Deng was forced to strap a heavily-weighted backpack to his back, put on a blindfold, and follow other pledges through the so-called “glass ceiling,” a symbol of the Asian-American plight. According to a grand jury report, Deng became defiant, speaking out of turn and kicking one of the fraternity members. In response, the fraternity members became physically aggressive with their pledge, knocking him to the ground and, eventually, rendering him unconscious.

When the fraternity members realized Deng had lost consciousness, they carried him inside, laid him in front of a fireplace, and attempted to revive him. When his breathing became labored, instead of calling for medical help, they started googling phrases such as “concussion can’t wake up,” and even called a national fraternity official, who advised them to hide anything bearing the fraternity’s symbol.

An adult who persuades or helps a minor commit an act of juvenile delinquency may be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor (CDM). In MA, a minor is anyone under the age of 18. Juvenile delinquency is generally a criminal offense committed by a minor. Examples of CDM crimes include:

  • Serving alcohol to a minor
  • Purchasing alcohol for a minor
  • Using illegal drugs in the presence of a minor
  • Engaging in sexual acts with a minor
  • Showing pornographic material to a minor
  • Exposing minors to prostitution, sex trafficking, or any type of sexual exploitation
  • Exposing minors to any type of illegal conduct or activity

In some of the above scenarios, a person charged with CDM may face additional charges. For example, if you provide alcohol to a minor, you may be charged with CDM and providing alcohol to individuals under age 21, as well. An experienced MA defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’re facing CDM charges.

Penalties for a CDM Conviction

As with most crimes, the severity of the underlying offense and past criminal history factor heavily when determining punishment for CDM crimes. Chapter 119 / Section 63 of Massachusetts Law states that: “Any person who shall be found to have caused, induced, abetted, or encouraged or contributed toward the delinquency of a child, or to have acted in any way tending to cause or induce such delinquency, may be punished by a fine of not more than $500 or by imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.” That being said, there are widely varying levels of severity when it comes to CDM charges. A mother who provides alcohol for her 16-year-old son’s after-prom party is likely to receive very different treatment from a 50-year old gym teacher who is caught showing pornography to middle school students.
It is a crime to aid a minor’s act of delinquency in any state. However, in order for an individual’s conduct to be considered an act of CDM, certain elements must be present. An adult must have committed an act that caused a minor to become delinquent. In some cases, an adult can also be charged with CDM if his or her failure to perform a duty caused a minor to become delinquent. And the minor doesn’t even have to actually commit the act for charges to be filed. For instance, if an adult buys marijuana for a minor but the minor never uses it, the adult can still be charged with CDM.

Exceptions to CDM

Certain acts are not always considered a crime. For example, although it is illegal to give alcohol to someone under the age of 21, there are some exceptions. In MA, for instance, it is not a crime for a parent to share a glass of wine with a teenage child in a restaurant. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you build a solid defense if you’ve been charged with CDM. Continue reading

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