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Worcester Criminal Defense Law Blog

New saliva test for THC developed

Law enforcement in Massachusetts may have a new tool that detects THC levels in saliva as well as identifies drugs such as cocaine, heroin and morphine. Although the device, developed by researchers at Stanford University, still needs to be tested and approved by regulators, scientists say it can successfully detect molecules of THC using a simple roadside spit test. The same method can be used to detect molecules belonging to other drugs as well.

Police face two obstacles in enforcing laws against the use of marijuana while driving. One is that some states do not have a maximum permitted limit for THC. The other is that there is not a quick test that can quickly check for the presence of THC in the same way that a Breathalyzer can measure blood alcohol. Usually, a blood or urine test must be sent to a lab so that it can be checked for THC, which presents a problem for police making a traffic stop.

Effects of parental rules on alcohol use

Massachusetts parents may be interested to learn about a study that found that parental rules about drinking had an effect on how likely a child was to drink. The study looked at more than 1,000 people between the ages of 15 and 20 in 24 different cities. Participants were asked to report on their attendance at parties and alcohol consumption as well as their family's rules about drinking.

Around 60 percent of participants had attended a party in the last month where alcohol was served. However, the ones who came from families with clear rules against drinking were 38 percent less likely to imbibe at those parties compared to people whose families did not have these rules. Almost 60 percent of the teens in the study said their families had rules about alcohol use.

Obama grants clemency to 111 nonviolent drug offenders

Massachusetts residents may have heard that President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 111 federal inmates on Aug. 30. The individuals had been convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

According to White House Counsel Neil Eggleston, the commutations highlight Obama's commitment to giving second chances to prisoners he believes received unnecessarily harsh sentences under "outdated" drug laws. The president has called for an end to excessive punishments for nonviolent drug crimes. Earlier in August, he granted clemency to 214 federal prisoners, bringing the monthly total to 325. That is the highest number of commutations ever granted by a president in a single month.

Fast facts about pleading nolo contendere for DUI/OUI

Getting pulled over for DUI/OUI is serious business in Massachusetts. You will face penalties in both the court system and from the Registry of Motor Vehicles and it is a major disruption in the life of those who are charged. Rather than fight the case in court, which may stretch out for months, a majority of the defendants in Massachusetts opt to work out a plea deal in hopes of reducing the sentence, lowering the penalty and/or simply trying to put this unpleasantness behind them and get their license back.

According to the Massachusetts court system criminal procedure, a defendant may plead guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere, which is a Latin-based legal term that means "I do not wish to contest." It can also be referred to as a plea of "no contest."

What are considered property crimes?

If someone is charged with a DUI, or assault, or drug charge, it is basically clear what authorities claim to have occurred: drunk driving, injury, and drugs. But what about someone who is accused of a property crime? It is a more vague classification of an offense.

There are various types of property crimes. They vary greatly from the type of property crime to the severity of the alleged offense. FindLaw notes that a property crime can be relatively minor but another can be considered a high-level felony. The following are the basic kinds of property crimes:

After a step back, a step forward in marijuana laws

Our last post discussed the federal government's controversial decision to not change marijuana's drug classification. It remains a Schedule 1 substance according to federal drug laws. While that disappointed the many Massachusetts and U.S. supporters of marijuana legalization, another legislative decision about the drug comes as a ray of hope.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court set limits on what the Department of Justice can do regarding prosecuting medical marijuana cases from state to state. The result of those limits is that those who use, grow and sell marijuana according to their state laws can breathe a bit more easily. As long as they are following their state's law, the feds are to stay away.

Shifted views about marijuana don't end in shifted classification

Earlier this month, Massachusetts added another medical marijuana dispensary to its state's list when the first dispensary in Boston opened its doors. Just several days later, the U.S. government confirmed that it would not reclassify marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug to something lesser. 

Well, this is confusing, isn't it? That is the state of marijuana laws in this country and has been for some time. While there is a growing acceptance of the drug -- even recreationally -- throughout the country, federal officials have fought that acceptance. The decision earlier this month suggests the fight and thus the confusion continue.

New year could usher in stricter first OUI sentencing

Years ago on our Massachusetts criminal defense blog, we wrote about the possible legislation that would require those convicted with first DUIs to have ignition interlock devices on their vehicles. Back then, the proposed law didn't pass. But here we are again, discussing drunk driving and interlock devices in the state. 

The laws regarding first offense OUIs are close to changing again.

Late last month, the senate passed a bill that would make the law stricter. If the House of Representatives and the Governor approve the bill, the following will become law. Someone who is convicted of driving under the influence would be mandated to get their vehicle suited with an ignition interlock device. This possible January 2017 change would give those charged with suspicion of DUI even more reason to rely on an experienced criminal defense lawyer. 

Keep your mouth shut: why it's so important to exercise your right to remain silent

If you get pulled over or arrested, you will have to interact with the police. Many people think that cooperating with the police means telling them everything, but this can backfire. Information you provide when pulled over or arrested could be used against you. Learn what it really means to have the right to remain silent and why you should always retain an attorney.

Should police be protected under MA hate crime laws?

Tensions regarding race and violence by and to police have made it a volatile, emotional time in our history. Some of you may be personally impacted by events tied to the fights of "Black Lives Matter" and the twist on that slogan, "Blue Lives Matter." 

Massachusetts legislators are taking the recent incidents of violence against police officers seriously. Concern over the safety of police men and women has inspired some to support a bill to reclassify crimes committed against police officers as hate crimes. This suggestion does not come without disagreements.

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