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We often get the question here at Altman and Altman LLP, if I have lost my Massachusetts drivers license due to a criminal or motor vehicle infraction, am I eligible to apply for a hardship license? In general (though with some exceptions) the answer is yes. There are two instances where the hardship license is unlikely to be granted are as follows:  If someone is serving a license suspension for refusing a breathalyzer test it is an uphill battle and very unlikely, In addition if someone had their license suspended for negligent or reckless homicide the answer is generally not likely as well.  However, other than these two examples if you/we can make a compelling case for a hardship license you have a real chance to be granted the license.  We have found that applying for a hardship license in Massachusetts is often not a futile or a time wasted process.

The best case scenario is that the Massachusetts Board of Appeals grants you a hardship license. The worst case scenario is that you are denied the hardship license, but the Board advises you as to why they are inclined to deny your request at this time. They will provide you/us with valuable information for the next time we apply for the license. For example, the Board may have wanted to see more of a work or family need for the hardship license to be issued, or the Board may have wanted to see the additional engagement of driving classes or courses. While there is some risk that that Board of Appeals will not permit you to re-apply for a certain period of time, we have found that they can be reasonable in that time frame, if they give any time constraints at all.

In our dealings with MA Board of Appeals and/or the DMV/RMV we have found them to be very understanding of one’s true need to have his or her driver’s license. This seems especially true in these pandemic/post pandemic times. While having a MA drivers license is a privilege and not a right. for many people not having the right to drive can be debilitating and potentially career threatening. Whether it be for employment, medical issues, or general family life, not having a driver’s license can be life altering.  If we can successfully prove to the board that that you are not a danger to the public, that you have taken adequate steps to ensure that the reason you were suspended in the first place would likely not re-occur and if you have a true hardship, we believe that there is a reasonable chance that you will be granted a hardship license.  That said, every case is taken on a case by case basis. But there should be a sense of optimism in obtaining a hardship license when going before the Board of Appeals. If you have questions about your potential hardship case, give us a call to talk with one of our experienced Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers.

Sometimes, even though we may not know all the facts, it is clear that some horrible tragedy has taken place. Probably one that has something to do with distorted perceptions of some kind. By some body.

Either that or pure evil. But then, I do not tend to believe in “pure evil” in such situations. I’ve seen too much.

But I digress (already).

In Fitchburg District Court, the allegations were presented in open court. The event was the arraignment of mother Shana Pedroso, 37, and the children’s father, Marvin Brito, 38. After the hearing, the two were ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing next Wednesday.

The case involves a 6-year-old girl and her 9-year-old brother. The 6-year-old girl is dead.

The brother told police that he and his sister went out for a walk on Monday with their parents and two other kids. He said that when the parents left them, “he and his sister were attacked by bullies,” according to a police report.

The brother, according to the police, suffered “serious injuries and bruising to his face.” He also told officers his mother “had glued a wound on his neck closed with super glue,” and that his parents had told him not to call 911.

The sister was pronounced dead after being found unresponsive in the family’s home on Stoneybrook Road, where the children were home-schooled.

Police said they observed “extensive bruising of various ages over her entire body.” Her brother said she was unable to drink yesterday morning “and that his mother was mad.”

Police said that while booking Pedroso yesterday they found handwritten notes on her dated Monday saying “that the children were bad and beaten.”

According to the Boston Herald,  the mother is facing charges of assault and battery causing injury to her children and reckless endangerment of their lives. Dad was charged with permitting substantial injury to the children, in addition to reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors did not rule out further charges.

The Department of Children and Families has taken custody of the 9-year-old boy and said that the agency had no prior involvement with the family, adding in a statement, “The Department of Children and Families continues to assist law enforcement in the active investigation of this tragedy.”

Attorney Sam’s Take On The Case As It Is And Could Be

I suppose that the assumption here is that the mother’s note regarding the children being “bad and beaten” is a mere reflection of what happened. That the mother, perhaps unaware that any wrongdoing somehow was simply doing her job as a home schooling mother and keeping accurate notes of the day’s events.

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So you are standing there with the letter that came to you from the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”). The letter says that they have investigated reports of your being abusive and neglectful to your young children.

When you got the first letter, the 51A letter, you agreed to meet with the DCF investigator. You figured that you did not need a lawyer. After all, to your best knowledge, you are neither neglectful nor abusive. Nothing could be further from the truth!

You met with the investigator, who struck you as having just graduated from high school, and explained the absurdity of the allegations. She nodded politely and seemed very nice.

Yes, you had an argument with your spouse. Yes, the kids where home. Yes, sometimes you are forced to raise your voice a bit with your children when they get out of control. Who doesn’t?

No hitting. No violence. Certainly nothing like what you grew up with!

How could they find against you?

    Attorney Sam’s take on 51A, 51B and what to do next.

As I mentioned in my last posting, the definitions of words like “abuse” and “neglect” have different meetings in the DCF world. Very often, for example, verbally chastising somebody is considered abuse. Yelling at someone when the children are around, witnessing it, is often found to be neglect.

“Sam… That’s ridiculous! That’s daily life!”

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It’s been a hard week and, admit it, you have not really been at your best. Or, perhaps your significant other has not been at his or her best. Either way, somebody may have done something stupid.

All you know for sure now is that you have received word that the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) wants to meet with you. Someone said something about receiving a “51a” or something and now DCF is saying they need to see if you have been neglectful.

Neglectful???!”, you say to yourself. “Are they kidding? Look at all the things my kids have. My every thought is about my kids! Believe me, my kids are anything but neglected!”

“I don’t need to get a lawyer for this, do I?”

Attorney Sam’s Take on DCF Investigations And Whether You Need A Lawyer

Unfortunately, the answer tends to be “it depends”. However, I can tell you that in the vast majority of cases, my advice is generally “Yes”.

“But I did not do anything?”

Actually, you don’t know that for sure. You see, DCF, like many government agencies, has its own definitions for all kinds of things…including what is called “neglect”.

“My kids have a roof over their heads. The place is clean.”


“They have plenty of food. They want for nothing!”


“We do not believe in corporal punishment. I mean, sure we get angry sometimes, and sometimes may yell…”


Here is the problem. Someone has made a report to DCF that your kids may be being neglected or even abused. DCF has screened the report in and begun a “51a Investigation”. Now, they have a fairly short amount of time to size the entire situation up and decide whether they can ignore your home.

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Hello. This is “Attorney Sam”. You may remember me as I regularly wrote this blog.

Now that we are finally thawing out, welcome to 2018. Although it has admittedly been awhile, I am still around, handling criminal cases and, of course, representing parents and teachers against the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Since we are starting off a new year, I thought that I would do something new. In all my blogs about DCF, I don’t think I have ever written one that is favorable to the department.

The previously stated views remain, unfortunately, but there is one aspect where DCF has surprised me in a positive way.

For those of you unacquainted, when DCF gets a report about abuse or neglect of a child, or what passes for such in some people’s minds, they do an investigation. At the end of that rather short investigation, they make a determination as to whether the allegations are “supported”.

There are various ways in which such a finding can, and will, negatively effect your life. Not just in the short term…years later as well.

There is only one way to challenge such a finding. It is an appeal procedure within DCF culminating in what is known as a “Fair Hearing”.

At a Fair Hearing, the investigator explains why the decision was made to support the allegations. The aggrieved parent (or teacher) has a chance to question the investigator and present his or her own witnesses. What passes for a judge in such hearings are men and women known as “Hearing Officers”. They have their own unit at the Boston headquarters of DCF.

“Who do the Hearing Officers work for, Sam?”

They work for DCF.

“Wait a minute. You’re telling me that it comes down to asking DCF to find that DCF had made a mistake in its finding?”

I know that, particularly if you know DCF, this seems like lunacy. Particularly if they continue to call it a “Fair” Hearing. Frankly, that is how it seemed when I started handling these matters years ago.

The good news is that, contrary to what one might expect, these Hearing Officers actually seem to take their job seriously. I have won many of these hearings and found many of the Officers quite fair.


“Is it just one Hearing Officer whom you have somehow won over or are dating?”

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A recent report issued by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety titled “Unlicensed to Kill” focuses on unlicensed drivers on America’s roadways. According to the report, approximately one out of every five fatal vehicle crashes involves an unlicensed driver, or a driver whose license is in question by law enforcement. The report goes on to say that about 8,500 fatal car accidents are caused by unlicensed drivers annually. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident involving an unlicensed driver.

The Link Between Fatal Crashes and Unlicensed Drivers

Research has revealed that individuals with license suspensions and cancellations are more likely to use excessive speed, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and to be distracted while driving. Of the fatal accidents caused by unlicensed drivers, about 30 percent are caused by drivers who have had at least three license suspensions or cancellations in the previous three years. “It’s like a revolving door. These people are being suspended and suspended and suspended again, and still, they’re driving,” said Lindsay I. Griffin, researcher at the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.Young adults, between the ages of 21 and 34, are the most likely to have a revoked or suspended license. Most disturbing, in nearly 50 percent of the fatal accidents involving an unlicensed driver, the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

No License, No Insurance

Drivers without valid licenses are not eligible for motor vehicle insurance, which means that recovering damages in an accident involving an unlicensed driver is more difficult. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can be added to your existing insurance policy to protect you against extreme losses. This type of coverage will cover full or partial damages if you’re in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have liability insurance, or whose liability limit is too low to cover your expenses. If you don’t already carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, it is in your best interest to add this coverage to your existing policy today. The cost is generally quite small, but it could make a world of difference if you’re involved in an accident with an this type of driver.

How to Avoid an Accident Involving an Unlicensed Driver

It’s impossible to identify unlicensed drivers while you’re driving, so how do you avoid a collision with one of these unlawful drivers? The best way to avoid an accident with any negligent motorist is to always remain alert when driving. Stay focused on the road and avoid distractions, such as texting or talking on the phone, adjusting the stereo or navigation system, and eating or applying makeup. Defensive driving is the single best protection against car crashes. Maintain plenty of distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you, drive at or under the speed limit, and avoid vehicles that appear to be speeding or driving erratically. Continue reading

A little cold today given that we continue to go from Spring to Winter within hours? The snowfall making you chilly? Want to warm up?

Well, here is way not to do that. It seems that our criminal justice heroes, in the face of gangs, heroin deaths and traffic fatalities, have returned to fighting the most vicious of crimes.

We are talking about the nonsensical battle against the oldest profession…prostitution.

No, not human trafficking or rape….voluntary sex for a fee. The solicitation of it.
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…And so our list continues.

Law enforcement has appeared at your door, interested in coming in to either look around, have a chat or both.

Now what?

I had just finished the second of five points for you to keep in mind when we left off.

Suggestion 3. Thou Shalt Not Give False Information

Whether or not you choose to carry on conversations with the investigating officers is your choice. However, that does not mean that you are free to tell them anything you want.

The law does not give you the license to lie to the investigators.

In fact, in Massachusetts, to give false information to law enforcement is to commit a felony. That felony, ironically, is called “Intimidation Of A Witness” for some reason which continues to allude me.

Sometimes, as it does with logic, the law has its own way of defining words.

However, the meaning of the law is clear. You cannot lie to law enforcement.
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A basic rule of criminal procedure is that the Commonwealth must turnover any and all exculpatory evidence (evidence which can lead the fact finder to believe the defendant is innocent) within their possession to the defense. In most cases there is rarely much exculpatory evidence, because if there were, the defendant would probably not have been charged in the first place. A problem arises when there is exculpatory evidence but it is not in the Commonwealth’s possession (even if commonsense says it should be).
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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker presented a reform of the Department of Children and Families on Monday. The reform highlighted a series of steps being taken in an effort to fix the immense issues that have been plaguing the department in recent years. Following the death and serious injury of several children under DCF care, there have been multiple calls for reform to the struggling department. Governor Baker had been facing immense scrutiny for his perceived lack of initiative in beginning the reform. But the new policy announcement that took place today has shown that Governor Baker has been anything but complacent.

Governor Baker has stated in the past that he believed that the Department of Children and Families had “fundamental issues” that needed to be fixed in an accelerated manner. Just recently he began this improvement by naming Linda Spears the new DCF commissioner. Once Spears was hired for the position in February of 2015, she immediately went to action issuing reforms for the various fragmented pieces of the department. One of the main reforms she began to instate was the call for additional CORI checks for potential and existing foster families. The new policies outlined by Spears also included photo documentation for children, as well as updated guidelines for social workers visiting families involved with the department.

The new reform taking place has provided specific steps that have one main objective in mind, in the words of Governor Baker himself: “…to keep kids safe.” Too many tragedies have befallen the young children under DCF care, and the reform presented on Monday will help combat these tragedies from occurring yet again. Governor Baker’s presentation included six clear initiatives that will help keep the focus on the children. Continue reading

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