The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects criminal defendants from being compelled to testify against themselves when being investigated or prosecuted for a crime. The Massachusetts state constitution and code contain similar provisions that are designed to protect residents who are suspected of crimes from being coerced into making incriminating statements. To ensure the federal constitutional right is functionally protected, courts have ruled that a criminal suspect, as part of a “Miranda warning,” must be notified of their right against self-incrimination before being arrested for a crime.

Failure by law enforcement to properly give and comply with the Miranda rights of a suspect may result in the exclusion of any evidence gained from the improper questioning. A Massachusetts man convicted of an OUI offense recently challenged the court’s admission of evidence that was obtained before he was given a proper Miranda warning, which was then used to obtain a conviction against him.

According to the facts discussed in the recently published appellate opinion, the defendant was pulled over while driving because his registration tags were expired. After the stop, the responding officer suspected that the defendant was intoxicated and spoke with the man, observing the defendant’s speech was slurred. This observation was made before the man was arrested or given his Miranda rights. The evidence of the defendant’s slurred speech was admitted at trial, and the defendant was convicted of OUI by the finder of fact.

In the area of criminal law, expungement can be a vital tool for individuals seeking to move forward from past mistakes and rebuild their lives. However, a recent judicial opinion from the Massachusetts Appeals Court highlights the complexities involved in the expungement process and underscores the importance of obtaining legal counsel to navigate these challenges effectively.

The case in question sheds light on the hurdles individuals may face when petitioning for expungement without proper legal representation. The appellant, appearing pro se, appealed the denial of his petition for expungement under G.L. c. 276, § 100K. His petition was based on the claim that the criminal record stemmed from demonstrable errors by law enforcement, specifically alleging an unlawful arrest and interrogation without Miranda warnings.

Despite the appellant’s earnest efforts, the court found his petition lacking in sufficient factual allegations to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the charges against him were the result of law enforcement errors. The opinion emphasizes the importance of presenting a strong case supported by evidence and legal arguments—a task that can be challenging without the expertise of a seasoned criminal defense attorney.

In a recent criminal case in Massachusetts, a defendant appealed his guilty conviction for murder in the first degree. On appeal, the defendant argued that the officers had coerced him into providing a confession of guilty; the higher court, however, ruled that the confession was entirely voluntary.

The court’s opinion highlights the fact that without an attorney present, it is always best to refrain from admitting to having committed a crime. Competent, aggressive representation is helpful at any phase of a criminal case, but especially during the interrogation process. Here, having waived the right to an attorney and having instead chosen to continue the conversation with police officers, the defendant voluntarily confessed to the crime. The court affirmed his guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, this case began when the defendant entered a married couple’s home, stabbed the couple, and stole several of the couple’s valuables. One of the victims immediately died from the incident, and the second died approximately one month later. The day after the attack, surveillance from a nearby store showed the defendant using one of the victim’s debit cards, and police officers took the defendant in for questioning.
During the questioning, the defendant immediately admitted to having committed the attack. The defendant was charged with murder, and his case went to trial. After trial, the jury announced a guilty verdict, and the defendant was sentenced accordingly. He promptly appealed.

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Facing criminal charges in Massachusetts can be a daunting experience, especially when errors occur during the legal process. In a recent Massachusetts case, a defendant charged with OUI fifth offense and other offenses raised concerns about the denial of attorney-led voir dire. The Recent appellate ruling demonstrates that judges can make mistakes during a trial, but the result may stand if the error is deemed harmless.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the case involved the defendant being witnessed driving erratically near the Sagamore Bridge. After he was stopped, the defendant faced multiple charges, including OUI fifth offense, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident, and more. As part of their case in chief, the prosecution presented evidence of the defendant’s erratic behavior, including tailgating, throwing objects from the vehicle, and ultimately crashing into a tree.

The defendant’s defense team sought attorney-led voir dire under Massachusetts District Court Standing Order 1-18(2018). The motion was denied without explanation, leading to a contention that the denial violated the standing order. On appeal, the higher court agreed with the defendant that he should have been permitted to perform the voir dire. While the judge’s error is acknowledged, the critical question arises: does this error warrant relief?

In a recent case before an appeals court in Massachusetts, the defendant challenged the lower court’s refusal to allow him to keep a jury member from serving on the jury during his trial. On appeal, the higher court reviewed the lower court’s record considered the defendant’s argument, and ultimately sided with the defendant, setting aside his guilty verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant in this case was charged with mayhem, assault and battery, and violation of constitutional rights with bodily injury after he got into a fight with a security guard at a local restaurant. According to witnesses, the defendant attacked the security guard, using racial slurs as he assaulted the man.

The case went to trial, and a jury found the defendant guilty. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court’s judge should not have refused to strike one of the jurors that was part of the pre-trial jury selection.

The Decision

The higher court therefore had to decide whether it was reasonable for the judge overseeing the trial to refuse to strike the juror in question. The juror was a Black male, and the defendant asked to strike the juror, meaning he did not want the man to be part of the group of 12 jurors that would hear the case. The judge asked the reason for the defendant’s request, and counsel for the defendant explained that the juror’s mother worked for the police department and that he might therefore be biased against the defendant.

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Criminal appeals are often looked at as a chance for a defendant to reverse a guilty verdict or unfavorable pretrial decision, however appeals can work both ways. Prosecutors commonly appeal pretrial rulings to a higher court in order to improve their chances of a successful result at trial. In certain circumstances, prosecutors can even appeal dismissals or acquittals of criminal charges, although double jeopardy may come into play if a jury had been impaneled prior to a state’s appeal.

Earlier this year, one of my blogs discussed the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen on firearm prosecutions in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Supreme Court had reversed a man’s firearm convictions and instructed the trial court to enter orders of dismissal for the charges against him. After this first opinion and ruling were issued, the State asked the Court to reconsider their ruling, and a supplemental opinion was released in September of 2023.

The defendant was initially convicted of carrying a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm, and carrying ammunition without a license. However, an appeal revealed that, according to the recent Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen, the absence of a license is a crucial element for these crimes. As the trial judge failed to instruct the jury on this requirement, the convictions were overturned, and the Commonwealth was prohibited from retrying the defendant. The Commonwealth sought reconsideration, arguing that the rule in Bruen did not exist during the defendant’s original trial. The court agreed, stating that double jeopardy doesn’t apply because the Commonwealth didn’t need to present evidence of lack of licensure under the previous legal framework, and a retrial is permissible.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forms a basis to protect criminal defendants from unreasonable searches and seizures. Millions of criminal defendants have been assisted by the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary provisions, which prohibit the introduction of evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In a recently released judicial opinion, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reinforced the state’s commitment to protecting individuals from the surreptitious collection of electronic evidence by offering state-specific protections that may exceed those offered by the Fourth Amendment.

The Wiretap Statute

According to the facts discussed in the recent opinion, The defendant in this case was discovered and arrested through a series of three drug transactions, each involving an undercover Boston police officer equipped with a cell phone capable of making surreptitious audio-visual recordings. The officer’s phone used an application to transmit live audio and video to remote officers and stored the recordings in the cloud. The defendant’s voice and image were recorded and transmitted without his awareness, leading to charges of distributing controlled substances. The defendant challenged the admission of the evidence at trial, claiming that a Massachusetts statute prohibited the admission.

The heart of this decision lies with the Massachusetts Wiretap Statute, which was designed to prevent the secret interception of oral and wire communications. The court emphasized the importance of distinguishing between situations where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy and those where such an expectation is lacking. This nuanced interpretation prevents the Legislature’s careful wording from becoming meaningless.

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The Massachusetts criminal code is designed to allow prosecutors and judges discretion in charging and sentencing decisions in order to address the serious issue of repeat offenders. Criminal defendants with a prior record may be charged with different crimes than another person without a record. Additionally, a defendant’s record is taken into account when a judge makes sentencing decisions. These charging and sentencing decisions can have an enormous impact on the penalties that a defendant may be subjected to for the same conduct. A Massachusetts appellate court recently heard a case that challenged a lower court’s application of the Massachusetts Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) to increase the punishment of a defendant with a prior juvenile offense.

According to the judicial opinion, the defendant had been charged with a firearm charge as a habitual offender because he had a prior conviction for a violent crime. The Massachusetts ACCA defines “violent crime” as an act of juvenile delinquency involving the use or possession of a deadly weapon, punishable by imprisonment for more than one year if committed by an adult. Prior decisions have established that a prior juvenile offense can serve as a predicate offense only if the Commonwealth can prove that the weapon used or possessed was inherently deadly. The defendant’s argument focused on the fact that his youthful offender adjudication involved an armed robbery with a fake handgun. The court agreed with the defendant that the defendant’s prie crime did not apply as a violent crime as required by the ACCA. A competent attorney was crucial in presenting this argument effectively, as the prosecution had to prove the inherent deadliness of the weapon, a nuanced distinction.

This judicial opinion underscores the pivotal role of competent legal counsel when facing cases involving prior offenses. Competent attorneys are vital in cases where the proper interpretation of statutes can mean the difference between enhanced sentencing and a more lenient outcome. They must be well-versed in legal precedent, statutory construction, and the nuanced distinctions between legal terms, such as “dangerous” and “deadly” weapons.

For many individuals facing DUI charges in Massachusetts, the absence of breathalyzer evidence might seem like a silver lining. However, a recent judicial opinion sheds light on how prosecutors can still secure DUI convictions without relying on this traditional piece of evidence. At the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, we understand the intricacies of DUI cases and aim to equip potential clients with knowledge about the evolving landscape of DUI trials.

Understanding the Judicial Opinion

In a recent case, the absence of breathalyzer evidence took center stage, with the judge delivering a specific instruction to the jury to disregard any considerations related to the breathalyzer. Despite the defendant’s objection, the judge emphasized the appropriateness of the instruction, creating a unique scenario where the trial continued without breathalyzer evidence playing a role. Although the defendant was not required to submit to a breathalyzer test, his counsel feared that the lack of breathalyzer evidence could make the jury think that the defeadnt refused the test, which could suggest he was impaired at the time.

Admission of the Booking Video

The defendant also contested the admission of a booking video, arguing that it was prejudicial. The court, however, maintained that the video was relevant to establishing the defendant’s impairment. In DUI cases, driving performance, appearance, demeanor, and field sobriety test execution are crucial aspects. The booking video, taken shortly after roadside tests, became a focal point, providing insights into the defendant’s walking ability and potential limitations due to injury.

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With the increasing seriousness and public awareness of the nationwide opioid epidemic, Massachusetts lawmakers, prosecutors, and courts seem eager to address the problems by seeking quick convictions and harsh sentences for crimes relating to the distribution of heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. While this strict enforcement of drug laws may ultimately support public health, overeager police officers and prosecutors often violate Massachusetts residents’ constitutional rights in the process of enforcing drug laws. A criminal defendant recently appealed his conviction for heroin distribution, alleging that the search leading to his arrest was unconstitutional.

The case in question involved a defendant accused of distributing heroin. After a jury-waived trial, a Superior Court judge found the defendant guilty. The defendant subsequently appealed his conviction, challenging pretrial rulings made by the trial court. One of the primary defenses raised by the defendant was a motion to suppress evidence. The crux of this argument was whether the police had reasonable suspicion to stop the defendant’s vehicle, leading to the discovery of evidence that could potentially incriminate him.

In assessing this motion, the court followed the established legal framework. It’s essential to note that police officers can affect a motor vehicle stop based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. In this case, the defendant contended that the police lacked such reasonable suspicion, which would render the subsequent evidence inadmissible. The court’s decision emphasized that when the basis for reasonable suspicion is a perceived drug transaction, it is not necessary for the police to observe an actual exchange of drugs or cash. Instead, it is essential that their observations occur in a factual context that points to criminal activity.

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