It was recently reported on August 2, 2012, that Governor Deval Patrick signed new Massachusetts criminal law legislation that imposes harsh penalties for repeat violent criminal law offenders convicted in the Commonwealth. In doing so, Massachusetts now reportedly joins twenty-six additional states that have imposed strong habitual criminal offender laws. The new law takes away judicial discretion with respect to sentencing of repeat violent criminal offenders who have suffered convictions three times for certain enumerated violent crimes and makes these offenders ineligible for parole. In other words, repeat violent offenders now have to serve the full or maximum sentence with absolutely no chance for parole, probation, work release, furlough or reduction of sentence for good conduct while incarcerated.
The two previous convictions of a criminal defendant to be subject to the penalties imposed under the Massachusetts three-strikes law must have arisen out of distinct and separate incidents that must have occurred at different times. Also, these previous convictions must have carried sentences of at least three years each for the law to be applicable.
This law was sought by the father of Melissa Gosule, who was murdered by a convicted criminal who had been released early only after serving a two-year portion of a prison sentence and reportedly involved a history of twenty-seven prior felonies on his criminal record. Authorities argue that a tough three-strikes law may have avoided this and other similar, tragic losses of life.
In order to get that law passed there were certain concessions incorporated that actually decrease the mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug crimes for trafficking, distribution, manufacturing or possession with intent to distribute drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, morphine or opium. In some cases involving trafficking in cocaine or phenmetrazine, mandatory minimum sentences have been reduced by three years. Also, the weight requirements of certain narcotics to support a conviction for trafficking have actually increased making it more difficult for prosecutors to convict for trafficking cases.