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Appellate Court Affirms Violation of Defendant’s Probationary Sentence

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Massachusetts violation of probation hearing that was premised on the defendant’s alleged possession of an unlicensed firearm. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the quantum of evidence necessary to sustain a violation of probation.

The Facts

The defendant was a juvenile who was placed on probation for an unarmed robbery. While on probation, the defendant was arrested for the possession of a firearm without a license. Evidently, police responded to a call for an instance of breaking and entering. Upon entering the residence, police found several teens in the attic. The defendant was sitting on a chair with a black jacket draped over the back of it.

The police officers put all the teens up against the wall after seeing what they believed to be a handgun protruding out of another teen’s jacket. After searching all the teenagers, police officers found a gun in the black jacket that was draped over the chair that the defendant was sitting in. Later in the evening, two of the teens in the attic told police that the black jacket belonged to the defendant. However, one of the other teens told police that it was his jacket.

The court found the defendant to be in violation in his probation, revoked his probationary sentence, and then placed the defendant – a juvenile – in a juvenile placement facility until his 18th birthday. The defendant appealed, arguing that the court improperly revoked his probation because the court impermissibly considered hearsay evidence from the other two juveniles. Alternatively, the defendant claimed that there was insufficient evidence to prove that he possessed the gun.

On appeal, the court held that the revocation of the defendant’s probation was appropriate, given the evidence presented. The court explained that in Massachusetts violation of probation hearings, the prosecution must only prove that the defendant violated their probation by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard that is applied in criminal cases.

The court explained that the police officer’s observations that the black jacket was hanging over the seat where the defendant was sitting was non-hearsay evidence supporting the violation. This, the court held, was sufficient to show that the defendant possessed the weapon under a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Are You Facing a Violation of Probation Hearing?

If you have recently been informed that you are facing a revocation of probation hearing, contact Attorney Patrick J. Murphy to schedule a free consultation. Attorney Murphy has decades of experience representing those who have been charged with serious crimes, as well as those who are facing a violation of their probationary sentence. While Massachusetts probation violation hearings are held to a lower standard, the prosecution must present sufficient evidence that you violated a term of your probation. To learn more about how Attorney Murphy can help you defend against the charges you are facing, call 617-367-0450 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

The Issue of Race and Jury Selection in Massachusetts Criminal Trials, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published October 9, 2018

Massachusetts Court Considers Whether Juvenile Adjudications Qualify as Predicate Offenses under the ACCA, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published September 20, 2018