How Prior Offenses Can Drastically Affect Massachusetts Charging and Sentencing Outcomes

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.

Cases involving prior offenses and their classification as “violent crimes” under statutes like the Massachusetts ACCA can be intricate and legally challenging. The recent judicial opinion in Massachusetts has shown us that the interpretation of such statutes is not always straightforward. Competent legal counsel is essential in navigating these complex cases and ensuring that clients receive fair and just treatment under the law. This opinion serves as a powerful reminder of the profound impact that adept legal representation can have on the outcomes of cases involving prior offenses.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges in Boston?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Massachusetts, The importance of retaining competent counsel cannot be exaggerated. The Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy understand how Massachusetts courts address prior offenses, and with out help, you can be sure that you’re not being unfairly punished for past conduct. If you’re facing charges, you deserve an effective advocate. Contact our office at 617-367-0450 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers.


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