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Worcester Criminal Defense Law Blog

What should I know about shoplifting in Massachusetts?

Going into a business and taking merchandise without paying for it is considered shoplifting; however, that isn't the only action that might lead to a shoplifting charge. You can also be charged with shoplifting if you change the price of an item, which could be possible if you move a price sticker from one item to another. Taking a shopping cart from a store is another form of shoplifting. Massachusetts law has set specific laws regarding shoplifting.

Is a warrant required for a shoplifting arrest?

Can you refuse a breathalyzer test?

Like many states throughout the country, Massachusetts has strict laws that govern how alleged drunk drivers are charged. Questions still remain about an individual's rights after being pulled over or arrested on suspicion of DUI/DWI/OUI, such as "do I have to take the breath test?" It is within your rights to refuse a breathalyzer or any other field sobriety tests. However, it is important to know that there are consequences for refusing.

Report provides insight into state's high recidivism rates

Individuals who are convicted of criminal charges in Massachusetts appear to be more likely to later be arrested and convicted of additional criminal charges. This fact is evident in a report that was recently released by the Council of State Governments which details the results of a study that examined several aspects of Massachusetts' criminal justice system.

According to the report, the state's "prison recidivism rates…are around 40 percent." This figure is troubling for many reasons and appears to indicate that, for a significant number of Massachusetts residents, one run-in with law enforcement officials can signal the start of a vicious cycle where they are more likely to be arrested and, due to their prior record, convicted of subsequent crimes.

Will police officers soon be allowed to plug into our cellphones?

While today's motor vehicles are safer than ever, unfortunately today's drivers are also more distracted than ever. The proliferation of mobile technologies like smartphones and personal tablets have made it easier and more tempting than ever for drivers to text, check email or surf the web while driving.

Consequently, according to the National Safety Council, during the last three years, cellphone-related collisions have continued to increase and now account for more than 25 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. In an effort to crack down on cellphone-related crashes, most states have passed laws banning drivers from texting and many also have bans on using handheld cellphones while driving.

Massachusetts among states taking steps to reduce prison population

The overcrowding of U.S. prisons has been a long-standing and well-documented problem. The financial costs associated with incarceration are significant and, according to the U.S. government, during 2014, the average cost of incarceration per inmate was $30,619.85. In addition to the significant financial costs, incarceration also takes an enormous personal toll on the individuals and families who are affected.

With several states and the federal government seeking reforms to mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker recently signed a bill that repealed a law which required the mandatory "driver's license suspension for those convicted of drug crimes."

No more automatic license suspensions for drug convictions

It's been a long road to get to this point, but Massachusetts has finally abolished the automatic driver's license suspension for drug crime convictions.

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, the Massachusetts House passed a bill to eliminate the automatic license suspension for drug crime convictions. And now this bill has become law. 

Is it possible to seal a criminal record in Massachusetts?

Making mistakes and errors in judgment are part of being human. It's through such mistakes that an individual grows and learns to make different and better choices. Unfortunately, some mistakes have much greater repercussion sand an individual who drinks and drives or experiments with drugs may be arrested and convicted of criminal charges.

Having a criminal record can negatively impact an individual's life in numerous ways. For example, an individual who has a criminal record that is visible via a Massachusetts' criminal offender record information or CORI, may experience difficulties in obtaining housing or a job. The stigma that remains tied to individuals who have criminal records can follow and haunt them for years and some may therefore choose to explore having their records sealed.

Police routinely monitor social media for clues of possible criminal activity

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 65 percent of U.S. adults use social media and that number is likely even higher among U.S. teens. Today, people readily use social media websites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep in touch with friends, post funny or interesting photos, share news and express their personal views about a variety of topics. There is, however, a downside to social media and individuals would be wise to remember that the comments and photos they post can be viewed by unintended parties.

It turns out that police departments across the country are also avid users of social media, however, their reasons for using these sites are much different from those of the average user.

A case for why DNA evidence must always be questioned

In any case involving criminal charges, the prosecution must be able to present compelling evidence and facts. Today, many prosecutors in criminal cases rely heavily on DNA evidence which is often presented as being irrefutable. In reality, however, there are numerous factors that must be taken into account when considering the validity and reliability of DNA evidence including how such evidence was gathered, handled and tested.

In 1983 scientists and forensic experts began using a process known as polymerase chain reaction or PCR to copy and replicate trance samples of DNA material so such material could more easily be studied and tested. While the process is certainly useful from a historical perspective with regard to studying remains and artifacts from long ago, problems can arise when PCR technology is used to replicate DNA evidence in criminal cases.

Sex crimes: when the punishment doesn't fit the crime

Arguably more than any other type of criminal offense, those of a sexual nature are among the most reviled by society. Consequently, the penalties associated with such crimes are among the harshest. Massachusetts residents who are convicted of sex crimes not only face the penalties associated with an initial sentence, but are often also required to register as a sex offender for a minimum of 20 years.

While the potential damage caused to victims of sexual offenses cannot be overstated, in some cases the punishment simply does not fit the crime. This is often especially true when it comes to juveniles who are convicted of sex crimes, several examples of which were recently detailed in an article in The New Yorker.

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