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.

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.

MA is tough on OUI. But if this is your first offense, there are multiple defenses and alternative sentencing options that may be available to you. A first offense conviction of OUI in MA can carry a penalty of up to two-and-a-half years in jail, a one-year license suspension, and a fine of up to $5,000. However, this is rarely the outcome. With the help of a skilled Boston OUI defense attorney, you can dramatically improve your chances of a reduced or dismissed charge.

As with most criminal offenses, penalties for OUI take into account prior criminal history, and the severity of your crime. For example, if you were arrested for OUI while driving a child under the age of 14, you may also face child endangerment charges. But in most cases, a first-offense OUI without aggravating circumstances will not land you behind bars.

Did You Refuse the Breath Test?

In MA, if you refused a breath test at the time of your arrest, you will face an automatic license suspension of 180 days. On the other hand, if you take the breath test and it registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above, your license will be suspended for a minimum of 30 days.

At first glance, it may seem like a better deal to submit to the breath test, even if you may be over the legal limit. But this isn’t always the case. That being said, it is impossible to give blanket advice about whether or not to refuse a breath test; this decision should be based on multiple factors, including your level of intoxication, prior criminal history, whether you have past OUI convictions, and your personal / work / home life situation. If you do choose to refuse the breath test, you are entitled to challenge the associated suspension at a hearing. You have 15 days following your arrest to appeal this suspension. Take advantage of this option.

Alternative “24D” Disposition

In MA, a first or second offense OUI is considered a misdemeanor. If you are facing charges for either offense, you may qualify for a program known as “24D,” or Alternative Disposition. 24D provides an alternative to the harsh penalties of an OUI conviction. If approved for 24D, you will be given one to two years of probation and will be required to complete an alcohol education program. Once you’ve enrolled in the class, you will likely receive a hardship license, even if you refused the breath test. A MA OUI defense attorney can help you determine if you are eligible for 24D.

Second and Subsequent Convictions

If you are facing a second or subsequent conviction, the penalties you are facing will understandably be more severe. However, individuals convicted of second offense OUIs may still be eligible for 24D, under certain circumstances. Penalties for second and subsequent offenses may include:

  • Second OUI offense: Up to two-and-a-half years in jail, license suspension of up to two years, a fine of up to $10,000, and the installation of an interlock ignition device at your own expense.
  • Third and subsequent OUI offenses: Up to two-and-a-half years in jail, a fine of up to $15,000, and a license suspension of up to eight years.

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During an investigation into a criminal or civil matter, witnesses may be subpoenaed to court to supply evidence, such as documents and DNA, and to testify against defendants and report crimes. In some cases, obtaining witness testimonies and evidence is easy. In other cases, witnesses are reluctant to comply. If you’ve been subpoenaed, do you have to comply?

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a document that orders a person to provide testimony during an investigation. In addition to appearing before the investigative body, the individual may also be required to produce documents and other evidence relevant to the case. Subpoenas are not typically issued to willing witnesses who are enthusiastic to come forward; they are generally reserved for those who initially refuse to appear. Ignoring or disobeying the orders within a subpoena may result in civil or criminal penalties. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been subpoenaed.

Once again, the Trump administration has brought some lesser-known legal situations into the spotlight. Take retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, for example. The president’s former national security adviser is caught in the middle of two investigations into the campaign’s Russian ties leading into the 2016 election. As Flynn is not particularly eager to testify, a subpoena was issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. But Flynn declined the request. Is that allowed?

Can I Plead the Fifth?

The Fifth Amendment of the constitution protects individuals against self-incrimination by preventing any person from being compelled to provide evidence that is likely to be incriminating in a subsequent criminal case. Flynn invoked these rights in the above case by pleading the Fifth. But this right is not absolute. A person can only plead the Fifth with regard to testimonial evidence, as opposed to identifying evidence, such as DNA and fingerprints. Further, only individuals can plead the Fifth; corporations don’t have this right. This is why Flynn’s businesses are being served with subpoenas, requesting documents related to the ongoing investigation.

What is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court is the act of being disobedient or discourteous to a court of law in a way that defies its authority. If charged with contempt, you may face criminal penalties. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine if you are at risk of being charged with contempt.

If pleading the Fifth is a privilege, how can I be charged with contempt of court for invoking that privilege? There are certain situations in which the privilege against self-incrimination can be waived. For example, a defendant in a criminal case can plead the Fifth, but if he or she chooses to testify, the privilege has been waived and the defendant can be cross-examined. In another example, if a witness refuses to testify after being given immunity (prevents testimony from being used against the witness in the future), he or she can be held in contempt of court. Most charges of contempt involve jail time and further penalties. 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.

Willie Wilkerson is a pastor at the Mission Church on Quincy Street in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Earlier this month, he was arrested on drug trafficking and intent to distribute charges following an investigation of the church, a food trailer, he owns and his home. In addition to crack cocaine and prescription pills, police found about $20,000 worth of stolen items and more than $10,000 in cash in his home.

Following the issuance of a search warrant, law enforcement discovered drugs, including crack, fentanyl, Klonopin, and oxycodone, hidden in printers and coffee makers. Materials and tools used to cut and package drugs were also found in the search. In addition to regular church services, the Mission Church also offers a 12-step recovery group for members with substance abuse issues.

Among the stolen items found in Wilkerson’s home were pieces of equipment belonging to an excavating company and other property that had recently been reported stolen. According to police, the investigation is still underway, and Wilkerson may wind up facing additional charges. Bail was set at $50,000 and the pastor must remain in Massachusetts and wear a GPS monitor. He is due in court on June 1. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with drug trafficking.

Drug Trafficking Penalties in MA

Drug trafficking is a Class D felony in Massachusetts, and a conviction can put you behind bars for a long, long time. Penalties vary widely, based on the type of drug, aggravating circumstances, and past criminal history. However, the scenarios below may shed some light on what penalties you may be facing if convicted of drug trafficking.

  • If found trafficking 50 pounds or more of an illegal drug, you may face up to 15 years in prison, with a one-year mandatory jail sentence.
  • For at least 100 pounds but less than 2000 pounds of a drug, there is a three-year mandatory minimum sentence, but you may face up to 15 years in prison.
  • You will face a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, and up to 15 years, if you are found trafficking between 2000 and 9999 pounds of an illegal drug.

Heroin and Cocaine

Charges for the most dangerous drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, carry even more serious penalties. Trafficking Cocaine is a Class B felony and heroin is a Class A felony. If found trafficking up to 14 grams of cocaine or heroin, you may face up to 20 years in prison, with a five year mandatory minimum sentence. A MA defense attorney can help position you for the most favorable outcome if you’ve been charged with a drug crime. Continue reading

The term obstruction of justice encompasses myriad criminal charges that may be filed when a person impedes or “obstructs” the criminal investigation process. What exactly does that mean? The following case provides one example. In 2014, Khairullozhon Matanov was questioned by police after the Boston Marathon bombing. Although he was friends with the accused bombers, he lied to the police about his connection to the two men. As such, he was accused of obstructing a government police probe.

More recently, talk of obstruction of justice has been in the news following President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. More than a few people are speculating that the termination was intended to impede investigations into Trump’s connections with Russia. If this is true, Comey’s termination may have been an attempt to obstruct justice. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with this crime.

The following statement is taken from the Federal obstruction statutes and intentionally covers a vast array of behaviors. The statute prohibits any attempt to “influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress.”

Common Types of Obstruction of Justice

Not all obstruction of justice charges are related to high-profile criminal cases and the President of the United States. Let’s talk about regular people…the rest of us. What are some more common types of obstruction of justice?

  • Lying to law enforcement. Don’t confuse your right to refuse to answer questions and to request a lawyer with permission to lie to police. Making false statements is not only a form of obstruction of justice, it’s a felony. If you intentionally lie to a federal law enforcement agent while being questioned, you could find yourself behind bars for up to five years.
  • Destroying or hiding evidence. The act of altering, concealing, or destroying evidence is a felony that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Evidence can be a weapon, a document…even an email.
  • Common law obstruction. This charge encompasses a more general spectrum of obstructive acts, including persuading a witness not to testify in a criminal case. A MA defense lawyer can help position you for the most favorable outcome if you have been charged with obstruction of justice.

As with most criminal charges, the underlying offense and past criminal history factor heavily when considering penalties for a conviction of obstruction of justice. For example, in the Manatov case discussed above, each of his three obstruction charges carried a potential of eight years in prison because they impeded an investigation into terrorism. Continue reading

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

A recent study found that many school zones, nationwide, have higher-than-average crime rates. Boston is no exception. But which school zone in Boston is considered the most dangerous? That would be the Roxbury-area school zone surrounding the James P. Timilty Middle School. The zone, which forms a 300-foot radius around the school, was the scene of more than 280 crimes from 2015 to 2017, according to research conducted by Safe Home, a security company that compiles crime data from Boston and several other US cities.

It’s not all bad news; crime in Boston school zones is on the decline. But certain areas are experiencing a disproportionate level of crime around schools. The Boston area’s top five “dangerous school zones” racked up a total of 149 assaults, 147 drug or alcohol crimes, 138 robberies, and 88 gun crimes, all within feet of elementary, middle, and high schools. In addition to Boston, Safe Home analyzed school zone crime in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles, Louisiana, New York City, and Seattle. A MA defense lawyer can help you get your life back on track if you’ve been charged with any type of crime.

Is My Kid’s School Zone on the List?

The school zones in Boston with the highest rates of crime are:

  • James P. Timilty Middle School
  • Codman Academy Charter School (Upper)
  • Holy Name Parish School
  • Dearborn STEM Academy
  • Jeremiah E. Burke High School
  • Boston University
  • Kennedy Day School
  • Pauline A Shaw Elementary School
  • William Monroe Trotter
  • Holmes Elementary School

Enhanced Sentencing for Crimes Committed in School Zones

To compile this information, Safe Home gathered crime data from the U.S. City Open Data Census and cross-referenced it with the geolocations of associated school zones. This high incidence of crime within school zones is even more perplexing given the enhanced penalties for committing crimes within 300 feet of a school. In MA, for example, a person convicted of distributing illicit drugs in a school zone is subject to additional penalties than if the act occurred in a non-school zone. This is even true if the school is not in session. The enhanced sentence for school zone drug crimes in MA is not less than 2.5 years, and up to 15 years in prison, and it carries a fine of up to $10,000.

To be convicted of a “school zone” crime, the offense must have taken place:

  • Within 300 feet of a school.
  • Between the hours of 5:00 am and midnight.
  • Within 100 feet of a playground or public park.

Although Boston’s hardest-hit school zones are experiencing a concerning level of criminal activity, it pales in comparison to the other cities in the study. In fact, one school zone in Seattle racked up more than 3,000 crimes in 2016 alone. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime in a school zone. Continue reading

Five teens have been arrested and are facing charges for statutory rape in a case involving a single victim, a 16-year-old girl. The South Haven, Michigan teens, all 17 or 18 years of age, attend the same high school as the victim. The severity of the case has brought a lot of attention, but the fact that the defendants are all on the school’s varsity basketball team has made this case national news.

Another student informed a school counselor about the encounters between the five defendants and the victim. The police were notified following the student’s report, and each of the five teens was arraigned and released on $1,000 bond. While they await trial or the resolution of their charges, the teens have been permitted to return to classes. However, they have been suspended from the basketball team. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of sex offense.

What is Statutory Rape?

As details of this case are still limited, it is not known whether the acts were committed with the victim’s consent, or under coercion or force. But statutory rape doesn’t require force. Even consensual sex is a crime, if one of the participants is under age. If, however, force or coercion was used, the charges may be elevated to a more serious charge with more serious penalties and punishments. In MA, statutory rape is committed if a person engages in sexual acts with someone under the age of 16. However, in MA, statutory rape is charged as “rape of a child,” and carries stiff penalties, along with the need to register as a sex offender.

What are the Penalties for Statutory Rape?

Penalties for statutory rape vary widely. For example, the punishment for a 17-year-old who has consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend is likely to be much less severe than for a 25-year-old man who has sex with a 12-year-old. Punishments can range from no jail time to life in prison. Sexual acts against a child are punished more severely if:

  • The child is under age 12 and the defendant is five or more years older.
  • The child is between 12 and 16 years of age and the defendant is ten or more years older.
  • The defendant is a doctor, teacher, clergy member, or social worker.

It is even illegal for a child under the age of 16 to have sexual intercourse with another child under that age. Therefore, in the case of a 14 and 15-year-old couple who choose to have sexual intercourse, both could be charged with a crime. Many states have something called a “Romeo and Juliet law” that holds that consensual sex with an underage individual is not considered statutory rape unless there is a certain age difference between the parties. But MA has not adopted the Romeo and Juliet law. So, as it stands, sexual intercourse with someone under age 16, regardless of the defendant’s age, is a crime. In addition to possible jail or prison time and fines, anyone convicted of a sex crime in MA must register as a sex offender. A MA defense attorney can help if you’ve been charged with rape of a child for a consensual relationship with someone close to your age. Continue reading

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