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Under certain circumstances, a judge may order a defendant who is addicted to drugs to remain drug free as a condition of probation, and a defendant may be found to be in violation of his or her probation by subsequently testing positive for an illegal drug. Following a probation violation hearing, a district court judge found that Defendant violated her probation and entered an order requiring her to submit to inpatient treatment for her addiction. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the finding that Defendant violated her probation and the order requiring her to submit to inpatient treatment for her addiction, holding that the judge did not abuse her discretion in concluding that Defendant violated her probation. View "Commonwealth v. Eldred" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Here, the Supreme Judicial Court retained the law that an individual whose property is damaged by a neighbor’s healthy tree has no cause of action against a landowner of the property upon which the tree lies. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court judge dismissing Plaintiff’s claims of private nuisance and trespass against Defendants after a tree on Defendants’ property allegedly caused algae buildup on the roof of Plaintiff’s home. The judge dismissed Plaintiff’s claims as precluded by Ponte v. DaSilva, 388 Mass. 1008 (1983). The Appellate Division affirmed. On appeal, Plaintiff conceded that Ponte was controlling but asked that the Supreme Judicial Court overrule Ponte and related cases. The Supreme Judicial Court reaffirmed the Massachusetts rule established in Ponte and related cases, concluding that the rule is not outdated and that there are multiple benefits to the rule. View "Shiel v. Rowell" on Justia Law

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The omission of a merger instruction in this case - where Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree on a theory of felony-murder, with aggravated kidnapping as the predicate felony - was not an error because the merger doctrine was inapplicable. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge erred in not providing a merger doctrine instruction, which prevents assault that results in a homicide from serving as the predicate for felony murder, to the jury sua sponte. The motion judge agreed, concluding that the omission of a merger instruction created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice, requiring a new trial. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the order granting a new trial and vacated Defendant’s conviction, holding (1) the omission of a merger instruction was not an error because aggravated kidnapping is sufficiently independent of the resulting homicide; and (2) because Defendant’s conviction of murder in the first degree was predicated on a theory of aggravated kidnapping that did not exist at the time of the homicide, the case must be remanded for a determination of whether a finding of murder in the second degree was supported by the record or whether a new trial was necessary and appropriate. View "Commonwealth v. Fredette" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Commonwealth did not meet its burden of proving compliance with the citation requirement of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90C, 2, which mandates the issuance of a traffic citation “at the time an place of the violation” where a State police trooper issued a traffic citation nine days after the violation. Defendant was the driver of a vehicle that had rolled over. Defendant was transferred the hospital, where State police trooper Jared Gray interviewed Defendant. Defendant admitted that he had been drinking at the time of the accident. Gray did not issue a citation at the hospital but instead submitted his investigation report to his supervisor, who approved the report nine days later. On that day, Gray issued and mailed citations to Defendant. Due did a ZIP code error, however, Defendant did not receive the citation until five to six weeks after the incident. The superior court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss on the ground that Gray had failed to issue a citation “at the time and place of the violation.” The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the dismissal of the indictments, holding that the delay in the citation’s issuance, in the absence of any justification, was inconsistent with the antiabuse purpose of the “no-fix” provision of the statute. View "Commonwealth v. O'Leary" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree, kidnapping, armed robbery, and assault by means of a dangerous weapon, holding that the location of the crimes - whether they occurred in Massachusetts or Connecticut, where the victim’s body was found - remained too speculative to sustain the jury’s finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. During trial and as part of his motion for a required finding of not guilty, Defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was killed in Massachusetts. The trial judge denied the motion but submitted the question of territorial jurisdiction to the jury. On appeal, the Supreme Judicial Court held that a rational trier of fact could not have found beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim was killed in Massachusetts, as opposed to in Connecticut, and therefore, there was insufficient evidence for a finding beyond a reasonable doubt of territorial jurisdiction. View "Commonwealth v. Combs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the county court denying Petitioner’s petition for relief under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 without holding an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner, who was indicted on charges of murder and other crimes, moved to dismiss the indictments on the grounds that the evidence presented to the grand jury did not establish probable cause to indict and that the integrity of the grand jury proceedings was impaired. The superior court denied the motion. Petitioner then filed this petition. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Petitioner failed to show that the denial of his motion to dismiss warranted review under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3. View "Starks v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgment of a single justice of the court denying the Commonwealth’s petition for relief from an interlocutory order of the juvenile court, holding that the single justice abused her discretion in declining to employ the court’s power of superintendence to rectify an error of the trial judge. After he was arrested an firearm-related charges, D.M., a juvenile, sought an order requiring the Commonwealth to disclose the identity of its informant and other related information. The judge allowed the juvenile’s motion, determining that the Commonwealth had properly asserted an informant privilege and that D.M. had adequately challenged the assertion of the privilege. The Commonwealth filed a Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition seeking reversal of the interlocutory ruling and arguing that the judge erred in allowing the juvenile’s motion. The single justice denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the judge’s analysis was erroneous, and the analytical error should not stand. View "Commonwealth v. D.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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The twenty-day blackout period for voter registration prior to an election does not violate the Massachusetts Constitution. The trial judge in this case declared Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 51, 1, 1F, 26 and 34 to be unconstitutional to the extent that these statutes’ twenty-day deadline operates to deny constitutionally qualified voters the right to cast a ballot. The Supreme Judicial court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded the case, holding that the twenty-day deadline was not unconstitutional but that the Legislature has a continuing duty to ensure that the deadline is no further from election day than what the Legislature reasonably believes is consistent with the Commonwealth’s interest in conducting a fair and orderly election. View "Chelsea Collaborative, Inc. v. Secretary of the Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated so much of the trial judge’s order as required payment of restitution after Defendant admitted to facts sufficient for a finding of guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and remanded the case for further proceedings. After Defendant admitted to the above facts, her operator’s license was suspended and she received a continuance with a finding for one year with probationary conditions, including payment of $140 in restitution. On appeal, Defendant argued that the judge erred in finding that she had an ability to pay restitution. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of restitution and remanded for reconsideration of the question of restitution because the judge’s findings did not indicate that the judge sufficiently considered, as required, the matter of the financial resources of Defendant. View "Commonwealth v. Vallejo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated so much of the judgment granting sole legal and physical custody of Petitioner’s child to Petitioner that declined to enter special findings and remanded the case for further proceedings. Petitioner filed a petition seeking custody of his son, a seventeen-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. A motion for special findings of fact and rulings of law requesting the judge to make special findings necessary for the child’s application for special immigrant juvenile status under 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(27)(J) was also filed. The judge declined to make the requested special findings. The Supreme Judicial Court held that the child was entitled to the special findings and directed the probate and family court to act forthwith on the motion for special findings. View "Hernandez-Lemus v. Arias-Diaz" on Justia Law