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Worcester Criminal Defense Law Blog

Is it fair and legal for police to shame defendants on Facebook?

A Boston writer for the Associated Press recently published an article on whether police departments can legally use their Facebook pages to shame defendants they have arrested. The article cites activity from several different cities where police departments, in a quest to "inform the community," have been posting photos of criminal defendants -- in many cases, accompanied by pejorative quips.

You can read the article here, but one example from Taunton is instructive. It got heavy news coverage. According to the AP, a woman was arrested for running her car into a series of mailboxes before crashing it on a lawn. When the police arrived, they claim, she asked them to send a tow truck. When she was arrested, she had a small lizard in her brassiere. The story was posted, along with humorous asides, on the department's Facebook site.

Supreme Court asked to rule on reach of email warrants under SCA

The Stored Communications Act was passed as Title II of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, long before the possibility of cloud computing was even on the horizon. In general, it addresses the government's ability to compel the disclosure of "stored wire and electronic communications and transactional records."

More particularly, it is a law the federal government often uses to obtain the emails of people it is investigating. Recently, however, a dispute with Microsoft resulted in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

MADD pushes for ignition interlock law

In a year when the national average for highway deaths involving drunk drivers was 1.9 percent, Massachusetts rated 2.9 percent. An average of 121 people in the state die each year from alcohol-related accidents. Impaired drivers were responsible for accidents that killed over 10,000 people across the country in one year.

Across the nation, lawmakers and law enforcement combat those statistics with tougher laws and harsher penalties. A conviction for drunk driving may mean jail time, loss of driving privileges and stiff fines, with these penalties increasing with each subsequent conviction. Recently, however, states are trying a new approach.

When should the tragedy of an overdose become a criminal act?

A 30-year-old Pennsylvania woman has been charged with aggravated assault on a newborn after she overdosed while seven months pregnant. It's a tragic story, made only more so by the shortsightedness and mistakes that appear to have contributed to the events.

Although the woman was charged under Pennsylvania law, we thought it would be interesting because it raises important questions. Should suffering from an overdose that was the fully expected effect of addiction result in criminal charges? Does it matter if intervening events contributed to the outcome of the overdose?

Why aren't more people getting medicine to treat opioid addiction?

A recent study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics looked into whether addicts are getting appropriate medications when receiving treatment for opioid medications. Somewhat surprisingly, only 21 percent of the nearly 21,000 patients studied had received buprenorphine or naltrexone, even though the two medications are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The patients were between the ages of 13 and 25, and all had health insurance through a major insurer.

"Young people may be dying because they are not getting the treatment they need," wrote one of the study's authors.

Massachusetts man charged with drug possession after search

Police took a 27-year-old man into custody on drug charges on the morning of June 9 after allegedly discovering about five ounces of illegal drugs during a search of his Plymouth County home. The search was conducted with officers attached to the Brockton Police Department's Narcotics Unit assisted by detectives from the Massachusetts State Police. The man has been charged with one count of drug trafficking two counts of drug possession with the intent to distribute.

According to a Brockton Police Department representative, the warrant to search the residence on Pleasant Street was obtained after an investigation into an area drug distribution service lasting two months. Police discovered cocaine, fentanyl and the addiction medicine Suboxone during the search. Officers say that they also seized about $10,000 in cash, four digital scales, substances that were allegedly used for cutting drugs and materials that were used to package drugs.

Appeals court strikes down lifetime supervised release as punitive

A federal appellate court has struck down a lower court's order for lifetime supervised release in a case where the defendants' sentences were shortened by an earlier appeal. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal supervised release program is not to be used punitively against defendants.

The Second Circuit covers New York, Connecticut and Vermont, while Massachusetts is in the First. However, the issues addressed are the same and Second Circuit decisions carry weight in the First Circuit.

Field sobriety tests are voluntary

If law enforcement officers in Massachusetts ever suspect you of drunk or drugged driving, they will ask you to perform certain physical tests so that they can check you for impairment. These tests are called field sobriety tests. While the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration claims that these provide accurate measurements of impairment, the truth is, the results are often somewhat questionable due to their subjective nature.

What are the standard field sobriety tests? What are officers looking for when they administer these tests? Do I have to comply?

A defendant's rights after being charged with a crime

The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution gives everyone the right to a speedy trial. If a Massachusetts judge deems that a trial took too long to commence, the case may be dismissed. Typically, the word speedy is defined as a reasonable amount of time depending on the circumstances of a given case. In addition to having a case heard in a reasonable amount of time, a defendant's fate must be determined by an impartial jury.

Typically, the jury is made up of 12 people who must all agree as to whether a defendant is innocent or guilty after hearing the evidence. If the jury cannot come up with a unanimous decision, they are considered to be hung or split. When this occurs, a mistrial is declared, and the case may either be dismissed or retried in front of another jury.

Tiger Woods blames prescriptions for DUI

Massachusetts residents may have read reports about an incident involving Tiger Woods. Woods was taken into custody by police in Florida on DUI charges on May 29, but the former world number one says that his disoriented demeanor was caused by an unexpected reaction to medication that he had been prescribed by his doctor. Police reports revealed that the four-time Masters winner had no alcohol in his system at the time of the incident.

Those reports also indicate that Jupiter police took Woods into custody after discovering him sleeping at the wheel of his stationary but idling vehicle near Indian Creek Parkway. Officers say that the professional golfer was unsteady on his feet and unable to perform a series of standard field sobriety tests. Reports suggest that Woods was cooperative both at the scene and later at the Palm Beach County Jail. He was released on his own recognizance after about four hours.

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