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Worcester Criminal Defense Law Blog

Obama continues to commute drug offender sentences

Massachusetts residents may be surprised to learn that President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of more federal prisoners than the last nine chief executives combined. The White House announced on Nov. 22 that Obama had commuted the sentences of a further 79 nonviolent drug offenders, which brings his total commutations since taking office to more than 1,000.

Political and legal observers say that the president may be stepping up his efforts in this area due to the results of the November general election. President-elect Donald Trump vowed to be a strong advocate for law and order during a contentious campaign, and few observers expect him to continue Obama's push to mitigate the effects of what many experts see as unnecessarily harsh and discriminatory mandatory minimum sentencing laws. However, not all of those calling for criminal justice reform are happy with the way that Obama has handled the issue.

Studies show field tests for marijuana are not reliable

On Nov. 8, Massachusetts residents voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Now that people in the state are able to smoke pot without risk of criminal prosecution, there are concerns that there will be more car accidents caused by drivers who are impaired by the drug. However, a scientific testing process to measure marijuana impairment has not yet been created.

Though studies have shown that marijuana field tests are far from perfect, there are many companies working to develop a cannabis test that could be used by police officers. A California-based company called Hound Labs has even developed a marijuana breath test that can detect the amount of THC in a breath sample. Other companies are working on tests that measure THC levels in saliva.

Former NFL player Greg Hardy faces drug charges

Massachusetts fans of former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy may have heard that he was facing drug-related charges. On Sept. 26, his car was searched in Dallas during a traffic stop. Officers found what they believed to be cocaine, but Hardy said he did not know why it was in his car.

After testing, it was found that the baggie had .7 ounces of the drug. This left Hardy vulnerable to felony drug charges and up to two years in prison. He could also be paying up to $10,000 in fines. Six weeks later, he was indicted for a felony count of cocaine possession.

What are the penalties for a first-time OUI?

Being arrested for OUI, operating under the influence, in Massachusetts is a serious matter that can adversely affect your life in many ways. If this is your first arrest for OUI, you are likely concerned about the potential penalties you will face if convicted. OUI convictions incur both administrative and criminal penalties, so it is important to understand the potential penalties associated with a first-time OUI conviction.

Suit filed by man who was falsely charged with meth possession

Not every person who is charged with possessing drugs in Massachusetts is guilty. It is possible for someone to be falsely accused even after drug tests pull up positive results. A recent case in Florida shows the problems that faulty preliminary drug tests can cause.

After being pulled over for a traffic violation in Orlando in December 2015, the motorist granted police permission to search his vehicle. The officer then found a white sticky substance on the floor of the man's car that looked suspiciously like drugs.

Opponents of legalizing marijuana worry about drugged driving

Voters in Massachusetts will soon decide whether or not to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in their state. The bill has both proponents and opponents. If the bill passes, then the sale of marijuana would be taxable.

Opponents of the legislation argue that legalizing marijuana may lead to increased problems with impaired driving. They state that there are no reliable tests that can be used to determine whether or not a driver is high when they are driving. Police and prosecutors say that drugged driving cases involving marijuana are difficult for them to prove and prosecute. Officers point out that if they spot edibles in a vehicle, such as brownies or cupcakes, they have no way of knowing whether they should take them in as possible evidence.

A patch and a smartphone could cut down on drunk driving

People in Massachusetts and across the country could one day be using their smartphones to tell them when they are too drunk to drive. A system is under development that involves a smartphone app paired with a wearable device that detects blood alcohol content through perspiration.

The device looks like a temporary tattoo, according to the director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which is funding its development. Engineers at the University of California, San Diego created the biosensor patch, which releases a chemical that stimulates perspiration under the skin, and then measures the alcohol content in the perspiration. The plan is for wearers of the device to pair it with a Bluetooth smartphone so that the phone can send an alert message if their alcohol level is unsafe for driving.

Report reveals harsh sentencing in drug possession cases

Massachusetts residents may be interested in the contents of a report from the American Civil Liberties Union that has found that people with relatively low-level drug offenses may still be facing lengthy sentences. According to the ACLU, decades of imprisoning people for drug use and possession has not caused the rate of drug use to decline, and the organization recommends harm reduction, decriminalization and education over charging people with felonies.

The report uncovered a number of problems within the system. Due to prosecutors aggressively pursuing plea bargains, some people might be wrongly imprisoned, or people with only very small amounts of drugs may receive long prison sentences. People may agree to plea bargains because they are facing the harshest charges, but they might still end up with severe penalties even after the agreement.

Failing field sobriety tests when sober

Is it possible to fail a field sobriety test if you are sober? Unfortunately, these tests are unreliable and it is indeed possible to fail them when you're sober. If you are pulled over for suspected drunk driving, you may be asked by a police officer to complete one or more of these tests. By law, you can refuse to take any sobriety test except a breathalyzer -- and you should.

A prosecutor's obligation to reveal evidence

People in Massachusetts may not be aware of a law regarding criminal cases that is sometimes known as the Brady rule. According to this rule, a prosecutor must inform the defense if evidence is discovered that is favorable and material to the defense's case. However, many prosecutors fail to do this. They often claim that they were unaware or they did not think the evidence was important.

For example, a man was convicted of robbery, but several months later, a prosecutor working on an appeal found a mug shot of him in the previous prosecutor's file. It was taken two days before the robbery and showed that the defendant's hair was short. However, the robbery had allegedly been committed by a man with dreadlocks.

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