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 Traffic Violations

We’ve all been stuck behind a slow driver in the left lane. It can be frustrating, aggravating, even infuriating. But should it be illegal? Most states have addressed the issue of left lane “slowpokes” through legislation, signs, or fines. Proponents of these laws argue that driving slow in the left lane is as dangerous as speeding because it frustrates people to the point of road rage. Some states – including  Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Virginia – have recently adopted tougher laws and enforcement to keep people out of the left lane, unless they are passing.

Some states, such as Missouri and Michigan are using a subtler approach to educate and inform. Missouri uses funny signs, such as “Camp in the Ozarks, not the left lane,” and Michigan troopers turn traffic stops into teaching opportunities with the state’s newly-launched “Southpaw Initiative.” Violators are stopped and educated about left lane driving and how it can disrupt the flow of traffic. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime during a routine traffic stop.

A Violation of Rights?

Although most of the violators in Michigan’s Southpaw Initiative were let off with just a warning (key word, most), critics are concerned about the possible implications. Charles E. Sydnor III, a Democrat representing Maryland’s Baltimore County, said he was recently pulled over in Virginia for a left-lane violation. He claims to have been preparing to make a left turn.

“Once you incentivize law enforcement to go after people in the left lane, it could be a pretext to pulling people over for no reason,” said Sydnor.

But despite the potential for such laws to encroach on our constitutional rights, states are increasingly likely to adopt left lane-related laws in order to reduce traffic congestion. Oklahoma’s new law, which went into effect last week, imposes a fine of more than $200 for drivers who hang out in the left lane too long. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a crime during a routine traffic stop.

“I believe it has caused some road rage incidents,” said Oklahoma State Trooper Dwight Durant, and spokesman for the state’s Highway Patrol. “It’s caused some collisions with property damage, personal injury and even death. We’re hopeful this new law will cut down on that.” OK has also installed 234 signs across the state warning drivers to avoid clogging the left lane. And effective July 1, Nevada and Virginia are carrying fines of up to $250 for the same.

How to Gently Nudge Left Lane Hogs Out of the Passing Lane

Due to the dangers of slow driving in the left lane, minimum speed limits are typically posted on highways. Anyone driving below the minimum speed can be ticketed and fined. These folks usually fall into one of four categories: distracted, “leaf peepers” or tourists, new drivers, and the elderly. If you encounter a slow driver, or someone who just won’t leave the left lane, avoid aggressive tactics to get them to move. Instead, safely pass the slow driver. If passing isn’t possible, gently urge the driver to speed up or move by following the advice below:

  • Keep your cool and have patience
  • Flick your headlights a few times
  • Calmly tap your horn

If they still won’t budge, take a few deep breaths and count your blessings. It could be worse. Continue reading

In MA, drivers are required to carry liability insurance. The minimum requirements are $20,000 per person for bodily injury, $40,000 per accident for bodily injury, $8,000 for personal injury protection, and $5,000 to cover property damages and a portion of uninsured/underinsured motorist protection. Driving without insurance, or with a policy that doesn’t meet these minimum requirements, is a civil motor vehicle infraction (CMVI) in MA.

Is Driving Without Insurance a Crime?

It depends. If this is your first offense, chances are you won’t see jail time. However, if this is a second or subsequent offense, or someone was injured, it might be a different story entirely. Even if you are not criminally charged, a first offense does carry fines and a license suspension. In addition to a $500 fine, you are likely to lose your license for 60 days and pay an additional $500 to get it reinstated.

At first glance, jail time and hefty fines may seem a harsh punishment for neglecting to purchase auto insurance. But there’s a reason why motor vehicle insurance is so important. If you are involved in a collision, people could be seriously injured or killed. What if you are the at-fault driver? Who will pay the medical expenses and lost wages for those who are injured? Who will cover funeral expenses if someone is killed?

Generally, these expenses are at least partially covered by the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If you drive without insurance, accident victims could be facing more than injuries; they could also be facing a financial catastrophe. For this reason, it is required by law to carry auto insurance before you take to the open road. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you are facing penalties for driving without insurance.

Penalties for Operating an Uninsured Vehicle

MA is tough on drivers who hit the roadways without insurance. Even for a first offense. But what about second and subsequent offenses?

If a second offense occurs within six years of your first offense, you are looking at a fine of up to $5,000, a one-year license suspension, one year in jail, and a $500 license reinstatement fee. That’s a lot of money and time behind bars. The moral to this story? Don’t drive without insurance. But if you made a mistake, an experienced Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

Disputing a Citation for Driving an Uninsured Vehicle

If you have received a CMVI citation, it’s in your best interest to contact an attorney immediately. You have 20 days in which to request a hearing, and pay the corresponding fee to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. But you have to do it right. Failure to pay your fine, or file a dispute in a timely manner, can result in additional fines and the suspension of your license. Continue reading

A former Michigan prosecutor recently injured a man in a drunk driving accident. Having prosecuted many drunk drivers, Joshua Kuiper should have known better. He was charged with felony reckless driving after he crashed into Daniel Empson, who was retrieving something from a parked car. Kuiper was driving the wrong way on a one way street at the time of the incident. The former attorney was out in celebration of another prosecutor’s retirement.

Dram Shop Laws

In addition to the dangers of drunk driving, Kuiper should have known about dram shop laws. Named after the traditional term for a unit of liquor, dram shop laws hold bars liable for injuries caused by patrons they’ve over-served. Empson has filed an injury lawsuit against three bars that he alleges over-served Kuiper before the accident.

It’s common knowledge that hand-held electronics, such as smart phones, pose a serious distraction when we’re behind the wheel. But is that distraction as dangerous as intoxication? Can technology actually affect our sobriety? A new Washington law aims to treat cell phone use while driving in much the same way as drunk driving. The law would ban the use of all electronic devices when driving, even when stopped at a red light.

Electronic Driving While Impaired

According to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, the bill is called “electronic driving while impaired,” and the new offense would be called a DUI-E. “When you are driving with a cell phone,” said Inslee, “you are a more dangerous driver than if you are driving drunk with a .08 blood alcohol level.” And these aren’t just empty words; research backs up Inslee’s statements.

When a police officer stops your vehicle on suspicion of OUI, he or she will likely initiate a series of tests to determine if the suspicion is accurate. The officer will observe your eyes, your speech, and your overall demeanor. He or she will ask questions, such as have you had anything to drink.” If the officer believes there is probable cause, you will likely be asked to step out of the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. You may also be asked to submit to a breath or blood test. These tests are performed to gather evidence, and any information obtained will be used against you in an OUI case. As such, it’s important to know your rights if you are ever stopped after having a few drinks.

 

  • Ask for a lawyer. There is very little information that you are required to give to police during an OUI stop. You must provide basic identifying information, such as your name and address, driver’s license and registration. But even a question such as have you had anything to drink tonight doesn’t require a response. Your best bet is to remain calm and courteous, and to politely ask to speak to your lawyer before answering any questions. A skilled Boston OUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been pulled over on suspicion of OUI.

 

  • Do not submit to the field sobriety test. Ok, before we move forward it’s important to note the following – you do have to get out of the vehicle if the officer asks you to do so. You do not, however, have to answer the officer’s questions or perform a field sobriety test. If asked to get out of your vehicle, do so politely, and then inform the officer that you do not wish to perform the field sobriety test, and that you would like to speak to your lawyer immediately. Field sobriety tests are designed to produce failures. People who are completely sober frequently fail these tests. Without the evidence of a failed field sobriety test, proving that you’re guilty becomes quite the hurdle.

 

Are there Consequences of Refusing a Field Sobriety test?

Well, refusal of a field sobriety test doesn’t carry the official consequences of refusing a breath test (we’ll talk about those shortly), but refusing a field sobriety test is a relatively surefire way of getting arrested. The same could be said for submitting to the test, however. In many ways, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t…but for one major exception; a failed field sobriety test may lead you to jail and – most likely – a conviction. A refused test may lead you to jail, but you’ll have a significantly better chance of having your OUI charge dismissed without that evidence to substantiate the charge.

Can I Refuse the Breathalyzer?

Breath and blood tests are an entirely different story. In MA, refusing a breath test carries an automatic 180-day license suspension. That being said, it may still be in your best interest to refuse the breath test. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this problem. Your best course of action is to contact an experienced MA OUI defense attorney immediately if you find yourself in this situation. Continue reading

Also known as “hit and run,” leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident is a criminal offense. A hit and run doesn’t have to involve injuries, but penalties are likely to be much more severe if someone is injured. Although it’s never a good idea to leave the scene of an accident, people are prone to use poor judgement in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, fleeing the scene can elevate potential penalties from strictly financial to criminal. Fortunately, multiple defenses are available to protect the rights of individuals charged with this offense.

Potential Defenses to a Hit and Run Charge

Leaving the scene of the accident is a crime, but things aren’t always what they seem. Maybe you didn’t even realize you had hit another vehicle. The following scenarios are common challenges against hit and run charges.

If you’re driving through Quincy, you may want to think twice before picking up your smart phone or other handheld device. Effective Friday, April 6, Quincy’s police department has launched a crackdown on distracted driving as part of a larger, statewide effort to make MA highways safer. Quincy police will be looking for distracted drivers, and issuing tickets to those who are using handheld devices while behind the wheel.

The MA Executive Office of Public Safety and Security recently awarded a grant in the amount of $20,000 to the Quincy Police Department. At least part of the funds, which are earmarked for 2017 traffic enforcement operations, will go toward the campaign against distracted driving. Braintree, Norwell, and Weymouth are also taking part in the larger, statewide campaign. A Boston injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver.

“Our goal is keeping all road users in our community safe,” said Quincy police Capt. John Dougan. “If you text, dial or read a message on your phone while driving, you are endangering the lives of those around you, and you will be stopped. Using our community’s crash data, our officers will determine where the majority of crashes occur and focus their patrols in those areas.”

It’s Against the Law

Writing, reading, or sending electronic messages while driving is against the law in Massachusetts. The same goes for using apps or otherwise “browsing” the internet. And you don’t have to be moving to get busted; it’s just as illegal to text when you’re sitting at a traffic light as when you’re doing 60 down the highway. If you’re under 18 and behind the wheel, all use of electronic devices is prohibited, even making or answering a phone call. If a distracted driver has caused you physical harm or financial loss, a MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to recover damages.

What’s the Penalty?

If you’re caught illegally using an electronic device while driving, you may receive a fine of up to $500. And drivers under 18 could lose their license for up to one year. “It’s something that we are always looking for, but this specific campaign will add extra officers and time devoted strictly to distracted driving enforcement throughout the month of April,” said Quincy police Sgt. Karyn Barkas.

Distracted Driving Statistics

In the United States, more than eight people are killed due to a distracted driver every day. Texting is likely the most dangerous form of distracted driving as it involves every type of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive. But anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, from using a navigation system to eating, can be a distraction while driving.

  • According to the National Safety Council, 1.6 million motor vehicle crashes annually are a result of cell phone use.
  • One out of every four car crashes in this country is caused by texting while driving.
  • In a recent AAA poll, 94 percent of teen drivers are aware of the dangers of texting while driving, yet 35 percent admit that they do it anyway.
  • Teens are four times more likely than their adult counterparts to be involved in motor vehicle crashes while texting or talking on a cell phone.

Continue reading

Driving on a suspended license is a crime in MA, but we understand that the decision to do so is often for very practical reasons. Maybe you had to pick up one of your kids, or drive to an interview. The decision to drive on a suspended license isn’t a good one, but it doesn’t make you a bad person either. A MA defense lawyer can help you manage the damage if you’ve been charged with driving on a suspended license.

Driver’s licenses can be suspended or revoked for a variety of reasons, including driving under the influence, littering, or having an outstanding warrant. If your license is suspended, don’t drive. But if you already failed to heed that advice, there are several defenses that may be available to you. The underlying offense that resulted in your suspension, and prior criminal history will factor heavily in the outcome of your case. If, for example, you have no other criminal history and your license was suspended because you were delinquent on child support payments, you have a better chance of having your charges dropped than if you are a habitual offender whose license was suspended for reckless driving while under the influence of drugs.

Penalties for Driving on a Suspended License

If you are convicted of operating on a suspended or revoked license, the factors mentioned above will come into play. However, the penalties below provide a good idea of the fines and possible jail time you may be facing.

  • First offense: A maximum of 10 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Second offense: Up to one year in jail.
  • Habitual offender: Up to two years in a state prison, and up to $5,000 in fines.

In addition to the above penalties, your driver’s license may be suspended for additional time, or it may be revoked altogether.

“I Didn’t Know My License Was Suspended”

It is absolutely possible for people to have a suspended license without knowing it. In fact, it happens all the time. Maybe you have an out of state license, or you recently moved. You may have missed a notification that your license was to be suspended for too many speeding tickets or unpaid tolls, for example. Not knowing that your license is suspended is not a defense by itself. However, if it can be shown that you truly were unaware of the suspension, and the other factors surrounding your offense are not severe, a Boston defense lawyer can use this as a way to mitigate the damage. In many cases, a skilled lawyer can get the charges dropped completely.

What if Your License Was Revoked?

If you get caught driving on a revoked license, the penalties are generally more serious. In the majority of cases, you will face mandatory jail time for this offense. This is especially true if the revocation was for a 5th OUI offense. Don’t make the mistake of hiring just any lawyer if you’ve been charged with driving on a suspended or revoked license. Your decision could be the difference between time behind bars and a complete dismissal of charges. Continue reading

It’s common knowledge that getting behind the wheel when you’re intoxicated is a bad idea. But determining whether you’ve had too much to drink isn’t always as cut and dried. In Massachusetts, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent is above the legal limit. If a large man has three drinks with dinner, his BAC may be the same as that of a small woman who has one drink on an empty stomach. Without a breath or blood test, it’s impossible to know. Therefore, it’s always wise to err on the side of caution. If you’re going to drink, designate a sober driver. And if you think getting an OUI is no big deal, read on. The potential consequences of an OUI conviction may change your mind.

Consequence #1: Fines and Fees

Even for a first offense, you will likely find yourself paying fines and license reinstatement fees if you are convicted of an OUI. Fines range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the circumstances of your conviction, and you may have to pay a license reinstatement fee of up to $1,200. For a second offense, the fine can be as high as $10,000 and you may be out of pocket for up to $15,000 if convicted of a third offense.

Consequence #2: Jail Time

If this is your first offense, you probably won’t see time behind bars unless aggravating circumstances deem it necessary. But it’s a different story for second and subsequent offenses. For a second offense, you’re looking at between 30 days and two-and-a-half years in jail. For third and subsequent offenses, you could actually be sent to prison for up to five years.

Consequence #3: Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

Some first-time offenders get slapped with this requirement, but it’s mandatory for second and subsequent offenders. The installation of an IID requires the driver to blow into a device with alcohol-free breath before the engine of his or her car will start, and at periodic intervals while driving. In addition to being a hassle – and a bit embarrassing on a date – IIDs aren’t cheap. And guess who gets to pay for the installation? We all make mistakes. If you’ve been charged with an OUI, don’t make another one – consult with an experienced OUI defense attorney right away.

Consequence #4: License Suspension

From first-timers to serial-OUI offenders, everyone faces a license suspension. If it’s your first offense, you’re looking at up to 90 days without wheels. For second offenders, the suspension increases to two years, and it skyrockets to eight years for the third offense. Fourth offenders may have their license permanently revoked.

Having an OUI on your record is no laughing matter. This can impact future job and housing applications, as well as send your car insurance rates through the roof. In addition to the consequences above, you will likely be required to enroll in an alcohol education program at your expense. The bottom line is, OUI charges are serious. Your best line of defense if charged with an OUI is to consult with an experienced OUI defense attorney immediately. A skilled attorney can be the difference between dismissed charges and time behind bars. Don’t let a mistake ruin your life. Continue reading

There are two types of warrants in Massachusetts, arrest warrants and bench warrants. A bench warrant is generally the less serious of the two. These are issued for multiple reasons, including failure to show up at a court hearing or failure to pay child support. Arrest warrants are usually reserved for more serious criminal cases. In the case of a bench warrant, police don’t usually search out and arrest the defendant, but bench warrants are serious matters and should be handled as such. If a bench warrant is issued against you, your name will be entered into a database that can be accessed by all law enforcement at any time. In addition to fines, a bench warrant can put you behind bars. If you have an outstanding warrant, contact a Boston criminal defense attorney today.

You Can’t Hide From a Warrant

Although bench warrants don’t usually result in an active search, they often end up in an arrest. This is because any dealings with the police – even a minor fender bender for which you’re not at fault – can reveal the bench warrant. If a bench warrant remains unresolved, it can also result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Further, you will not be able to renew an expired license until the matter is resolved.

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