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Who’s Eligible for Special Weekend Sentences in Massachusetts?

prison cellIn a recent Massachusetts assault case, the defendant pled guilty to assault and battery on a girlfriend and her child. A judge sentenced him to 2 1/2 years in the house of correction, but he only had to serve six months with the balance suspended for three years. He was sentenced to three years of probation on the second charge.

He moved to revise and revoke the sentence. He asked if he could serve the sentence on weekends. The sentence was stayed until 2015, and on that date, the judge allowed the motion. The Commonwealth appealed, arguing the judge had made a mistake in granting the defendant’s motion. It argued the defendant didn’t meet the criteria provided under M.G.L. c. 279 section 6A that would allow him to serve a special weekend sentence.

After the appeal was entered, the judge held a hearing on the sheriff department’s petition to modify after the appeal was entered. The sheriff argued that the defendant should not be eligible due to his priors, having been imprisoned on prior convictions. The judge reduced the committed part of the defendant’s sentence to time served.

The appellate court explained that under section 6A, if somebody is sentenced on a first offense to imprisonment for less than a year, the sentence can be served in whole or in part on weekends and legal holidays if the court so orders. This is considered a special sentence of imprisonment. When an offender gets a special sentence of imprisonment, he must report to the institution to which he’s been sentenced by 6 pm on a Friday and then be released at 7 am on the following Monday, unless the following Monday is a holiday. When the following Monday is a holiday, the offender won’t be released until 7 am on Tuesday.

In this case, the defendant had a record of prior convictions for assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon, armed robbery, distribution of controlled substances, and motor vehicle offenses. He argued that since he’d not previously been convicted of assault and battery, these convictions should be treated as first offenses that supported a special sentence.

The appellate court disagreed. It explained that the criminal laws to which the defendant had pled guilty didn’t set out first or subsequent offenses. He’d previously been convicted, so he wasn’t sentenced on a first offense to imprisonment, as required under section 6A. Section 6A created a special sentence for a first-time offender. When a defendant who is serving a special sentence later commits an offense, the special sentence is rescinded, and the defendant will be incarcerated in the house of correction. Since the government mandated rescission for a first offender who reoffends, the appellate court concluded it was unlikely that it intended someone with multiple prior offenses to be eligible for a special sentence.

In this case, the defendant had previously been convicted and incarcerated as a prior offender, neither of the convictions at issue in this case was considered a first offense, and he wasn’t eligible for a special weekend sentence. The appellate court found the judge had erred in revising and revoking the original sentence.

It agreed with the Commonwealth, vacated the order, and reinstated the original sentence.

If you are charged in Massachusetts with an assault crime, contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy today to discuss the criminal charges. Call us at 617-367-0450 or contact us through this website.

More Blog Posts:

Assault and Battery Causing Serious Injury in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published January 14, 2015

Receiving Stolen Property in Massachusetts, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published December 15, 2014