Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Crimes

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houseIn Commonwealth v. Anderson, a Massachusetts appellate court considered a criminal hit and run case. The defendant was charged with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident after causing personal injury and property damage, as well as reckless operation of a motor vehicle.

The case arose after 2:00 a.m., when police officers and firefighters responded to a car accident. A Ford Mustang had crashed through the wall of a house, such that it was partially inside and partially outside. A woman and her boyfriend occupied the house. The boyfriend was injured and had to go to the hospital. By the time the police arrived, nobody was inside the Ford Mustang, and nobody identified himself as the driver. The key was left in the ignition, and the glass and locks were intact. The defendant was the registered owner.

When police tried to reach the defendant, they got his parents. Later, the defendant came to the police station and talked to one of the officers who’d responded to the scene. He told the officer that he’d lost control of the Mustang, hit the house, and in a panic, left for a friend’s house. Other than this confession, nobody came forward to identify him.

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engine-start-button-1445913-m.jpgUnder G. L. c. 90, § 24G(b), somebody who operates a car or other vehicle recklessly or negligently and endangers the lives of others, and thereby causes another’s death, can be convicted of homicide by a motor vehicle. The punishment is imprisonment in jail or a house of correction for a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 2 1/2 years, or a fine of $300-3,000, or both of these.

In Commonwealth v. Gallien, the defendant was convicted of motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation. The evidence showed the defendant didn’t stop the tow truck he was driving, resulting in a crash with a Honda Civic stopped at a red light. The collision killed a passenger in the rear-seat of the Honda.

The judge precluded the defendant from presenting evidence about modifications made to the Honda. The court explained that in criminal cases, a victim’s contributory negligence, even if it is a big part of the cause of a homicide, doesn’t excuse the defendant for also causing the victim’s death. To the extent that the defense’s goal was to show the victim was also negligent, excluding the evidence was proper. On appeal, however, the defendant argued that the modifications evidence should have been admissible not to show the victim’s negligence, but to show that the driver’s actions were an intervening or superseding cause of the victim’s death. The driver was a third party, not the victim.
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the-last-drop-1083566-m.jpgIf you hurt someone while drunk driving in Massachusetts, you may be charged with multiple counts, some of which may seem quite similar. In a recent case, a Massachusetts defendant was convicted of (1) drunk driving (operating under the influence or OUI), (2) drunk driving that caused a serious bodily injury, (3) driving on a suspended license, (4) manslaughter by motor vehicle, and (5) motor vehicle homicide. The case arose because the defendant was driving drunk on the wrong side of an access road and crashed into a Saturn. A 17-year-old passenger in the Saturn was killed and the driver seriously injured.

A state police trooper later testified that when the crash happened, the defendant was driving at 55 mph in a 25-mph zone, and the defendant didn’t try to avoid the crash. The defendant claimed he had drunk two 16-oz. mojitos and a vodka-Red Bull drink before the crash happened. The trooper also noted the defendant’s slurred speech, glassy eyes, unsteadiness, and failure to pass a sobriety test. The trooper arrested the defendant.

During the booking process, blood ran from the defendant’s ear, and he asked for medical assistance. Paramedics examined him. He agreed to a breathalyzer test with two measurements, and his blood alcohol level measured at .17 and .18. Next, he was taken to the hospital, where his blood alcohol level was measured at .15.
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car-accident-671890-m.jpgMiranda rights are frequently misunderstood. When police officers take a suspect into custody intending to conduct an interrogation, they must advise the suspect of his (1) right to remain silent, (2) that what he says can be used against him/her, (3) right to an attorney and that one will be provided at no charge if he can’t afford one. However, Miranda rights need not be given before asking questions at a crime scene, before a suspect volunteers statements, questioning for fact-finding purpose and questioning someone during an investigatory stop.

In a recent case that is not binding precedent, a defendant appealed the jury’s finding he was guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle and assault. He appealed on the grounds that statements he made at the time of his arrest should have been suppressed.

The appellate court explained that a jury could have found facts that supported the conviction. In the version the jury believed, a police officer was sent to a car crash at 2:00 a.m. and found the car near a broken telephone pole on a lawn with heavy tire marks. The defendant was at the scene, smelling of alcohol and slurred his speech.
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Massachusetts State Police announced that an arrest has been made in the case of a motorcyclist believed to have been traveling on highways around the greater Boston area at speeds in excess of 100 MPH, and using the breakdown lanes in order to evade police for several weeks.blk yellow suzuki.jpg

The 29 year old motorcyclist was recently arraigned on various charges, including reckless driving and speeding. An arrest was made on Tuesday morning, after the motorcyclist was found allegedly hiding behind a tractor-trailer in a parking lot in Randolph, just minutes after he was seen speeding along Route 24, where he was also reportedly making sudden lane changes, traveling in the median, and traveling south in a northbound lane.

A State Trooper reported that on a prior occasion, when he activated his lights, the driver flipped down his clear visor, and sped off at approximately 100 miles per hour. The motorcycle on which the man was riding had no license plates, and his helmet obscured his features. Another trooper reported a similar exchange, whereby the man reportedly took off onto the sidewalk, and then down the wrong side of the road. State Police reportedly posted information regarding the wanted motorcyclist on Facebook and Twitter, which led to a trucker informing police when he saw the motorcyclist behind his tractor trailer.
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Authorities in New Hampshire announced a surprising second arrest in connection with the case of a New Hampshire teenager who was recently charged with killing two Massachusetts women on bicycles.bike lane sign.jpg

The 19 year old teenage girl was arraigned this week on charges of negligent homicide and second-degree assault. However, police announced that they made an additional arrest, of a 48 year old woman, who was subsequently charged with providing drugs to the teenager on the morning of the crash, and for also allegedly allowing the girl to drive without a license. Her official charges included selling a controlled substance and an offense of allowing an improper person to operate a vehicle. The relationship between the two women is unknown at this point in time.

The teen involved in the crash was reportedly traveling at very fast speeds, and claims that she took her eyes off of the road for just seconds, resulting in the fatal striking of the two bicyclists. Two others were seriously injured. The probable cause hearing for her case is tentatively scheduled to take place on October 8.
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In Massachusetts, it is a serious offense to operate a motor vehicle after one’s license has been suspended.  However, what people may not be aware of is the different ways that your license or right to drive can be taken away, how long it will be suspended for and what fees you will be required to pay to the Massachusetts Registry, once you have taken steps to have your license reinstated.

The most evident reasons for license suspensions are for serious criminal offenses.  For example, a person convicted of motor vehicular homicide or vehicular manslaughter, will have his or her license suspended for at least fifteen (15) years and, depending on the persons’ record, it could potentially be taken for life.

A license can also be suspended for one (1) to three (3) years if a person is convicted of stealing a motor vehicle, another serious criminal offense. The punishment for driving negligently so as to endanger is a license suspension of 60 days up to one year.  If a person is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident where there is property damage, a license can be suspended for 60 days and up to a year as well.  If there are injuries and a person leaves the scene of the crime, the punishment is even more severe, with suspension ranging from one (1) to two (2) years.  For all of the previous offenses, the reinstatement fee is $500.00 in addition to periods of suspension, which must be served unless the driver is given a hardship license or a suspension reduction by the Board of Appeal for the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

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In a recent ruling representing a change in the interpretation of Melanie’s Law, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that the Massachusetts Legislature did not intend that an “admission to sufficient facts” also known as a “CWOF” or “continuance without a finding of guilt” in a drunk driving case to be treated as a conviction by the Registry of Motor Vehicles when acting pursuant to G.L. c.90, § 24(1)(f)(1) to suspend an operator’s driver’s license for more that 180 days due to the driver’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test.

In so holding, the SJC decided that a person charged with operating under the influence of alcohol who receives a continuance without a finding -a routine disposition for first-time drunk driving offenders-shall not have their case counted as a first offense conviction on their record. The lawyer for the Registry of Motor Vehicles contended that a CWOF should be treated as a conviction subjecting a repeat (DWI/OUI) offenders to the additional license suspension penalties.

The case name is Souza v. Registry of Motor Vehicles and was decided on May 17, 2012 as reported in the Boston Herald. In this case, a defendant arrested and charged with OUI admitted to sufficient facts for a finding of guilty but he did not plead guilty and his case was continued without a finding and later dismissed after he successfully completed his probationary terms. The defendant was arrested again thirteen years later and he had refused to submit to a breathalyzer test. Later, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended his driver’s license for three years pursuant to G.L. c.90, § 24(1)(f)(1) which directs that the RMV suspend the license for three years for a breath test refusal if the driver has been previously convicted of an OUI crime. If there is no previous conviction, the RMV suspension is for 180 days.
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Two Boston men were caught by police after a citizen tipped-off investigators. As a result of the tip, police recovered a handgun and crack cocaine when they arrested the pair on Monday, August 8, 2011 as reported in the Boston Herald. Both men pleaded not guilty to firearm and drug charges but were held on bail of $25,000-$30,000.

How will their lawyers likely handle defending them? One area that an aggressive and relentless Boston, Massachusetts criminal defense attorney must vigorously explore in this case is the nature of the tip from the informant, in this case, a citizen as indicated by the Boston Police. In the criminal law area of stop and search or frisk, the veracity, reliability and basis of knowledge prongs must be applied to the tip information. This information must be determined to justify the use of the tip by police to make a stop and/or seizure of evidence by police. If the proper protocols are not followed the lawyer may be able to suppress any evidence from the stop.

How did the tipster, a citizen, learn what he or she claimed to know? Was there any personal observation made by the tipster? What is the tipster’s veracity? In other words, was the tipster credible and worthy of belief under the circumstances with the information provided? Is the citizen providing the tip named or unnamed? Where the identity of an unnamed citizen is not revealed, that person actually is an anonymous informant and different rules apply. Anyone can call the police and make up an accusation. Where the identity of a concerned citizen in not provided to police, the citizen is an unknown informant and his or her reliability must be shown.The reliability of that citizen must be demonstrated by the prosecution an a hearing on the motion to suppress. Commonwealth v. Rojas, 403. Mass. 483, 485 (1988).
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If you have been charged with a motor vehicle offense or crime in Massachusetts such as driving a motor vehicle after your driver’s license right to drive in Massachusetts had been suspended or revoked, the Commonwealth must prove certain facts beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you. You must have operated a motor vehicle at a time of when your driver’s license had been revoked or suspended. Finally, you must have received notice from the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles that your license or right to drive in Massachusetts had been or was about to be suspended or revoked. However, how does a defendant challenge whether or not notice was sent as required? Under the existing law, notice is established primarily by documentary evidence not subject to a defendant’s right to confront and cross examine. How do you to question a document? The recently decided case of Commonwealth v. Parenteau has further clarified the issue of whether or not the government needs to subpoena live witness testimony to prove that someone received notice that their license was about to be suspended or revoked and this change may now benefit the defendant.

Upon the suspension or revocation of your license or right to operate, the Registrar is required to send you written notice to your address as appearing on Registry records, or to your last and usual residence. G.L. c. 90, § 22(d). This notice requirement is usually proven through a certified document from the Registry of Motor Vehicles that they sent a required letter to you explaining that your right to operate would be suspended or revoked by, for example, operating under the influence or by having an outstanding warrant in any Massachusetts court. The Commonwealth is not required to prove that you had actual, personal knowledge of the contents of this notice, however, the judge or jury may consider a properly attested copy of the official record of the Registry of Motor Vehicles as sufficient evidence that your license was suspended, and that they properly notified you.

In a motor vehicle offense case, the Commonwealth must prove receipt either of notice of actual suspension or notice of intent to suspend per the decision of Commonwealth v. Crosscup, 369 Mass. 228, 231 & n.2,339 N.E.2d 731, 734 & n.2 (1975), and the defendant must be permitted to offer evidence of non-receipt (See Commonwealth v. Crosscup, 369 Mass. at 240, 339 N.E.2d at 739. Prior to the Parenteau decision, the Registrar’s proper mailing of a letter was prima facie evidence of receipt by the addressee. Id., 369 Mass. at 239-240, 339 N.E.2d at 738-739. This documentation from the Registry, if properly certified, is usually admitted in evidence against a defendant without the need for live witness testimony from the Registry. Defendants have objected in the past but until the Parenteau case judges in the Commonwealth did not see a violation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine a witness from the Registry to challenge such documentation. The law has now changed as a result of the ruling in the Parenteau.

In Commonwealth v. Parenteau, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts considered whether a District Court judge erred by admitting in evidence, pursuant to G. L. c. 90, § 22 (d),(1) a certificate from the registry of motor vehicles (registry) attesting to the fact that a notice of license suspension or revocation was mailed to the defendant. The SJC concluded that the admission of the certificate violated the defendant’s rights of confrontation and cross-examination under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In this case, the defendant was arrested for violating G. L. c. 90, § 23,(6) by operating a motor vehicle after his license had been revoked pursuant to G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (a) (1), for operating under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The case proceeded to a jury trial and the defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude documentary evidence from the Registry in the event that such evidence was not supported by witness testimony at trial on the ground that admission of the documentary evidence violated the defendant’s right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment. The trial judge denied the motion. Later, the Commonwealth introduced a certificate from the Registry on which appeared a stamp certifying that notice was sent to the defendant that his license was revoked on a certain date. Ultimately, the jury found the defendant guilty of operating a motor vehicle after his license had been revoked for operating while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.
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