Court Finds Double Jeopardy Bans Prosecution in Massachusetts Weapons Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued a decision in a defendant’s motion to dismiss a Massachusetts gun charge. The Commonwealth charged the defendant with a weapons charge in violation of § 10(n), but it did not charge him with the predicate offenses of § 10(a) or (c). A district judge dismissed the case because of a defect in charging, and the Commonwealth filed a second complaint based on the same conduct. The defendant moved to dismiss the case based on a violation of Double Jeopardy principles.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment mandates that a “person cannot twice be put in jeopardy for the same offense.” The rights create protections against a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal and conviction. Additionally, it protects defendants from multiple punishments for the same offense. The law also bars retrials of defendants whose initial trial ends without a conviction, except in cases where the court declares a mistrial because of “manifest necessity.” Courts reviewing double jeopardy claims generally consider four factors, judicial estoppel, attachment, the character of the terminating order, and whether a mistrial occurred.

Judicial estoppel prevents parties from taking a position in a case that is contrary to their position in earlier proceedings. In this case, the court found that the motion judge was incorrect in finding that the defendant was estopped from arguing for dismissal based on the Fifth Amendment. Next, in reviewing attachment, the court must determine whether jeopardy attached in the first proceeding. The court found that case law has long made clear that jeopardy attaches when a jury is empaneled and sworn. Therefore, here, jeopardy attached in the first proceeding at that point. The court then reviews whether the termination was based on an acquittal or procedural. Here, the termination was procedural and did not constitute an acquittal; therefore, the inquiry moves to whether the judge declared a mistrial. In this case, the defendant did not consent to prosecution, and he did not invite a mistrial. The court found that judicial estoppel should not preclude the defendant’s fifth amendment claim. Moreover, because there was no manifest necessity for a mistrial, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss on double jeopardy grounds.

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If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, you should contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy. Attorney Murphy maintains a reputation for providing his clients with respect, compassion, and aggressive advocacy. He handles all types of criminal law cases, including Massachusetts gun cases, motor vehicle offenses, assaults, theft offenses, drug charges, crimes against property, and sex offenses. Attorney Murphy has successfully handled and resolved cases at every stage, from pretrial motions to appeals. Further, he understands that continuing education is crucial to honing his legal skills, and he makes it a priority to keep apprised of relevant case law and statutory changes. Attorney Murphy provides each client with individualized attention and strategic case preparation. Those charged with a crime in or around Boston can rest assured that Attorney Murphy has the skills, experience, and resources to ensure that clients receive fair and diligent representation. Contact Attorney Murphy at 617-367-0450 to discuss your Massachusetts criminal case.

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