Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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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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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 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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Defendant was not required to register as a sex offender because he did not have a “second and subsequent” conviction as required by Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, 178C where his two previous convictions were adjudicated during the same proceeding. In 2013, Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of open and gross lewdness. Defendant’s sentence on the second conviction included an order to register as a sex offender pursuant to section 178C, which requires such registration upon a “second and subsequent adjudication or conviction of open and gross lewdness.” Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, which the district court denied. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the phrase “second and subsequent adjudication or conviction” requires that a defendant be convicted of open and gross lewdness once before a second conviction triggers section 178C. View "Commonwealth v. Wimer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder in the first degree on the theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty and other crimes, holding that, although certain of the prosecutor’s questions and comments concerning Defendant’s prearrest silence were improper, these errors did not create a substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice. The Court further held (1) there was ample evidence to support the prosecutor’s statement during closing argument that Defendant struck the victim repeatedly with a hammer; and (2) there was no error in the judge’s instructions on the lesser included offenses to murder in the first degree. View "Commonwealth v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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Unpreserved arguments on appeals from sexual dangerous proceedings under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A are to be reviewed for a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. In 2011, Petitioner was committed to the Massachusetts Treatment Center as a sexually dangerous person pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A, 12. In 2012, Petitioner filed a petition for examination and discharge. The jury found Petitioner continued to be sexually dangerous, and the trial court entered an order continuing his commitment. On appeal, Petitioner argued, among other things, that a written report of a psychological examination conducted one day before trial was improperly admitted at trial. In response, the Commonwealth argued that the issue was waived because Petitioner did not object to the report’s admission at trial. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) unpreserved arguments on appeals from sexual dangerous proceedings under chapter 123A are to be reviewed for a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice; (2) the trial court did not err in admitting the report; and (3) trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance. View "In re R.B." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Defendant, who operated a motor vehicle after his license was administratively suspended pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 24(1)(f)(2), was properly charged under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 23, third paragraph. Section 23, third paragraph proves for a mandatory minimum sentence of sixty days in a house of correction on a conviction of operating a motor vehicle after the suspension or revocation of an individual’s driver’s license for operating while under the influence (OUI). The trial judge dismissed the OUI portion of the charge, concluding that section 23, third paragraph did not apply to Defendant. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was not properly charged because section 24(1)(f)(2) is not enumerated in section 23, third paragraph. View "Commonwealth v. Nascimento" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law