Law Office of Isaac J. Mass -- Greenfield, Massachusuetts
On Friday August 8, 2014 the Governor signed an “Act Relative to Domestic Violence” which imposes significant changes to arraignment, bail, detention, and criminal penalties in cases involving “domestic abuse.”   Below are some of the most significant changes:

Required 6 Hour Delay for Arraignment.  Under the new law, defendants charged with crimes involving domestic abuse are cannot be released within six hours of arrest, unless bail is set in open court by a judge. 

Written Findings of Domestic Abuse Allegations. At arraignment on any crime against a person or property of another, the court must inquire of the District Attorney whether domestic abuse is alleged to have occurred immediately prior to or in conjunction with the alleged crime.  The prosecutor must file a written statement, and the judge must make written findings that domestic abuse is alleged.  The judicial finding is then stored in the new “statewide domestic violence record keeping system.”  The statement will only be removed if the defendant is acquitted, or a no bill is returned; and will remain in the statewide database even if the case is dismissed. 

Bail Considerations for Domestic Abuse Cases.  For defendants charged with a violation of a 209A or a crime of domestic abuse, the district court  will not only consider the defendant’s likelihood of appearing at future dates, but also the safety of the alleged victim, any other individual, or the community.  Bail set out-of-court by any person authorized to take bail may now also include conditions of release in addition to or in place of cash.

Bail Revocation under 58B.  Failure to comply with a condition of bail, including picking up a new offense, now subjects all defendants to a 90 day revocation of bail. 

120 Day Detention. Detention after a Dangerousness Hearing is expanded from 90 days to 120 days in all cases. 

Summoning Alleged Victim or Family Member and Use of Hearsay.  Under the new law when a defendant wishes to summons an alleged victim or alleged victim’s family member to a dangerousness hearing, counsel must move in advance for permission of the court and demonstrate a “reasonable belief…that the testimony will be material and relevant to support a finding that there are conditions of release that will reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the community.”   

Reopening Dangerousness Proceedings. Now, in addition to reopening proceedings to introduce information not known at the time of the hearing, proceedings may also be reopened by the court or either party when there has a been a change in circumstances that has a material bearing on whether there are conditions for release that will reasonably assure the safety of any person of the community.

Dangerousness information on CORI.  Under the new law, whenever a judge finds dangerousness to detain or impose conditions, the clerk must notify probation, who places the order of detention or conditions in both the defendant’s CORI information and the statewide domestic violence record keeping system.  If there is no finding of dangerousness, then the fact that a Dangerousness Hearing was made is STILL kept in the statewide system, but not CORI. 

CORI for Employers.  Dangerousness information on CORI may be available to employers where they are permitted by law to obtain information on the underlying crimes.

New Crimes Created by the Statute

Domestic Assault, and Domestic Assault and Battery. The statute creates a new crime of domestic assault and domestic assault and battery, G.L. c. 265 § 13M.  The victim must be a family or household member, which is defined differently than under 209A § 1.  The victim must be a current or spouse, have a child in common, or be in a “substantive dating relationship,” to be determined by the trier of fact in accordance with the factors set forth in 209A § 1.  PENALTY: up to 2.5 years house of correction and/or fine of up to $5000.  The court is required to order the defendant to complete a certified batterer’s intervention program for all convictions or CWOFs under the new law, absent specific written findings showing good cause to omit the requirement.

Subsequent Offense Domestic Assault or Assault and Battery. The penalties are increased and the defendant is subject to a felony conviction for a subsequent domestic assault or assault and battery. PENALTY: up to 2.5 years house of correction, or up to 5 years in state prison. 

Strangulation/Suffocation.  The law creates a new crime of strangulation, G.L. c. 265 § 15D, with concurrent district court jurisdiction.  This may cause strangulation cases that otherwise would be charged as attempted murder to remain in the district court under this new offense. PENALTY: up to 2.5 years house of correction, or up to 5 years state prison, fine of up to $5000.  Now with all crimes involving “domestic abuse,” a batterer’s program is also required.

Aggravated Strangulation. For any strangulation offense resulting in serious bodily injury, or where the victim is pregnant, or where there is an active restraining order, or after previously being convicted of a strangulation offense, the penalty is increased.   PENALTY: up to 2.5 years house of correction, or up to 10 years state prison.  Batterers program is also required.  The district court maintains concurrent jurisdiction over the aggravated offense. 

New District Court Jurisdiction over Kidnapping. The law gives the district court concurrent jurisdiction over kidnapping, G.L. c. 265 § 26.  Although certain forms of kidnapping under § 26 do not have house of correction sentence alternatives, the amendment language appears to grant concurrent jurisdiction over § 26 broadly.

If you or a loved one has been charged with one of these new crimes or a crime where domestic violence is alleged to have happened near in time, it is essential that you have an attorney who understand the new statute.  It is also important to have an attorney who knows how to challenge  some of the statutes new procedural rules.  If you would like a consultation, contact contact the Law Office of Isaac Mass.

When you sell alcohol to someone who is intoxicated, personal injury or death due to drunken driving on the highways is foreseeable.

“A violation of a criminal statute is some evidence of the defendant’s negligence as to all consequences the statute was intended to prevent.” Adamian v. Three Sons, Inc., 353 Mass. 498, 499 (1968).

When you sell alcohol to a minor you may also reasonably infer that that minor is going to drink the alcohol.  It is also foreeable that those minors will share alcohol with other minors who might then drive.   

“While evidence of a sale of alcohol to a minor in violation of a statute does not, standing alone, establish a prima facie case of negligence, evidence of such a sale can be used to support a finding of negligence.” Zinck v. Gateway Country Store, Inc., 72 Mass. App. Ct. 571, 577 (2008) (citation omitted).

If you have been injured by a drunk driver, sometimes there is not adequate insurance to cover your damages.  You may have other sources to recover from other than the driver and their insurance company.   The source of the alcohol may have acted negligently when providing it.  For a free consultation, contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.

Today in COMMONWEALTH vs. Christopher DOYLE, No 11-P-1779, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals held damage done to a container for the sole purpose of obtaining the property inside a container is not Malicious destruction of property.

To prove malicious destruction of property, according to G.L. c. 266, § 127 a defendant's actions must be both "wilful" and "malicious." Under Commonwealth v. Redmond, 53 Mass.App.Ct. 1, 4 (2001). "In addition to the intent to inflict injury to property, the crime requires a state of mind infused with cruelty, hostility or revenge."

The Appeals Court held that this case was like Redmond where the defendant was arrested while apparently in the process of stealing computer equipment. In pursuit of that goal, Redmond had:

1)      ripped a security alarm from the wall

2)      broken a window

3)      and forcibly opened the front door of the office

4)      A second door, leading into a computer room, appeared kicked in

In Redmond the Court of Appeals held that "[a]lthough clearly intended, such property damage was nothing more than the 'the adventitious by-product of a wholly discrete criminal enterprise' (the theft of the computers) and was not 'gratuitous, excessive violence purposefully designed to intimidate and overpower,' ... or destructive activities that were by design and hostile to the owner of the property." Redmond, quoting from Commonwealth v. Wynn, 42 Mass.App.Ct. 452, 456 (1997).

In Commonwealth v. Morris M., 70 Mass.App.Ct. 688 (2007) the Appeals Court also found destruction of property caused by driving a Jeep across the driving range of a golf course and smashing the car into a pole was not malicious because the juvenile was driving the vehicle in order to escape another who apparently intended to harm him.

In the case of Mr. Doyle, the Appeals Court believed it was clear that the damage was done in an effort to steal from the ATM and not with "a state of mind infused with cruelty, hostility or revenge." as required under Commonwealth v. Redmond. Even viewed in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the evidence was not sufficient to establish the necessary element of malice and so the conviction for Malicious Destruction of Property was overturned.

If you have been charged with malicious destruction of property or another crime, it is important to have an experience criminal defense attorney who understands all the elements of each crime, and what the legal definitions of each element are.  Sometimes a complaint can be dismissed at a pretrial stage or even following the district attorney's opening statement, if they do not allege an essential element of the crime.  For a consultation, contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.

Today, in Commonwealth v. Reyes SJC 11270 (2013), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that the storage of a firearm in securely locked container (like a glove compartment) inside a parked vehicle is not a violation of the carrying statute and may be adequate under the storage statute.

 Amaury Reyes, was convicted in the Salem District Court of improperly carrying a firearm in a motor vehicle in violation of M.G.L. c. 140, § 131C (a) (carrying statute), and unlawfully storing a firearm (after leaving it in his motor vehicle) in violation of M.G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a ) and (b ) (storage statute). Reyes possessed a class A license permitting him to carry a firearm for all lawful purposes under M.G.L. c. 140, § 131 (a ). On April 10, 2010, he drove from his home to work, during which time he carried his personal firearm with him in a holster without passenger. When he arrived at  work, he parked his motor vehicle, removed the firearm and holster from his person, placed them in the glove box, and locked the vehicle.

Reyes consented to a search of his vehicle alerting the officer that his firearm was in the glove box of his
vehicle. He acknowledged that the firearm was not outfitted with a cable locking device. He unlocked
the car with a remote opener. The officers entered the vehicle from the passenger side, opened
the glove box, and retrieved the firearm in its holster. The firearm contained a loaded magazine, but no round in the chamber.

On appeal Reyes argued insufficient evidence at trial to support his convictions under the carrying and storage

The carrying statute provides in relevant part that "no person carrying a loaded firearm ... shall carry the same in
a vehicle unless such firearm while carried therein is under the direct control of such person." The Court
held that there was no evidence that his firearm was out of his possession (or his direct control) when he traveled to work in his vehicle. They further held that the carrying statute does not apply once the defendant leaves his
vehicle and leaves the firearm in it. The Court held that when Reyes left his motor vehicle and the firearm in it, he became subject to the storage statute because he was storing or keeping his firearm in a "place" neither on his
person nor "under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user." G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a ).

 As to the storage charge, the court maintained that a motor vehicle is not itself a securely locked container.
However they held “that the storage of a firearm in a securely locked container within a motor vehicle would
satisfy its requirements.” This may include a locked glove compartment if it locks according to the SJC. 

If you have been charged with a firearms violation you may need a criminal defense attorney who is abreast of the latest developments in firearms statutes and new court rulings reacting to the deluge of firearms litigation.  For a consultation contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.

Hardship Licenses, sometimes called a Cinderella License are issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles to some offenders for a legitimate purpose such as going to work, attending school, or receiving medical treatment. Hardship Licenses are valid for a consecutive 12 hour period (e.g.  8:00 AM to 8:00 PM). Such licenses are only granted to Massachusetts license holders.  In order to apply for a hardship license, you must attend a hearing at a Registry of Motor Vehicles hearings site

A hardship will only be considered for the following offenses certain offenses. You will need all required documents with you when you meet with the Hearing Officer.  Obtaining a hardship license is sometimes difficult, especially without a
skilled lawyer. Although an applicant may meet all requirements, issuance of a hardship license is only granted at the reasonable discretion of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, based on the facts of the case.

An attorney can help present your case in the light most favorable to you emphasizing the issues that are most important to the Registry of Motor Vehicles.  For example in accordance with Melanie's Law, the Registry of Motor Vehicles is changing its policy regarding who is eligible for a hardship license. To be eligible for a hardship license, you may now be required to present proof that you do not have access by public transportation to your required destination.  You should be represented by an attorney when seeking a hardship license.  

For an opportunity to consult a an attorney about representation at a Registry of Motor Vehicle hearing contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.  The Law Office of Isaac J. Mass can also represent you in hearings before the Board of Appeals after an unsuccessful hearing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. 

December  18th, 2012 , in Commonwealth v. Jones,  
the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that it was ok to deny a defendant’s right to admit into evidence that, shortly after he had declined to take a breathalyzer test, he changed his mind and requested but was not given the test.

On May  14, 2010, a witness was driving north on Route 10 in Southampton when she reported a pickup truck being driven erratically. The defendant was the driver of the truck and was stopped by the Easthampton police.  The police administered a field sobriety test, and the defendant performed poorly.  He was then placed under arrest.

The defendant, prior to trial, moved that he be permitted to testify that, at the police station, he initially declined to take a breathalyzer test, then "shortly afterwards" changed his mind and asked to take the test, but one was not administered.  Although the prosecutor did not  object, he wanted to introduce evidence that the defendant did not recant his initial refusal, and that he had also refused certain field sobriety tests and suggested the proposed testimony would “open a can of worms”. The judge denied the defendant's motion. 
The Supreme Court found, the judge acted within the scope of his discretion in excluding the testimony. The defendant sought to testify that, shortly after declining to take a breathalyzer test, he requested to do so.  Such evidence could only exonerate the defendant by suggesting that he thought he was not intoxicated at the time the request was made. But the court has held that "consciousness of innocence is of very little value, because there are a variety of different motives that can prompt action consistent with innocence." Commonwealth v. Espada, 450 Mass. 687, 698 (2008). 
The court  believes a recantation of an initial refusal to take a breathalyzer test is likely motivated by the desire to avoid suspension of the suspect's driver's license as it is with consciousness of innocence.

IF you have been arrested for operatining under the infulence or neglegent operation, contact the law office of Isaac J. Mass for a consultation.

What is Melissa’s Law ?

The Massachusetts habitual offender, Chapter 192 of the Acts of 2012, An Act relative to sentencing and improving law enforcement tools, is a comprehensive crime law which addresses many aspects of crime and sentencing and became effective Aug. 2, 2012.

Among other things the habitual offender law:

Establishes a specified list of violent felonies and

Requires anyone convicted a second time of a specified violent felony to serve at least two-thirds of his sentence (up from half) before eligibility for parole;

Requires anyone convicted three or more times of a specified violent felony (who has also served 3 or more years for his/her prior violent felonies) to serve the full, maximum sentence for his/er third or subsequent violent felony without eligibility for parole;

Requires anyone convicted three or more times of a specified violent felony to serve his latest prison sentence consecutive to completion of any previous unserved sentence (rather than concurrently with a previous sentence);

Allows judges to impose 15 to 25 years minimum which must be served on a single life sentence before parole eligibility (up from the current 15 years minimum);

Requires a two-thirds vote by the parole board to release anyone serving a life sentence (except first degree murderers who remain ineligible for parole);

Eliminates any parole eligibility for multiple life sentences; and

Reduces minimum mandatory sentences for certain non-violent drug crimes by about 20% and increases the amount by weight required for mandatory minimum sentencing

Reduces the school zone area from 1,000 to 300 feet in drug cases and excludes school zone violations between 12pm and 5 am.

If you believe the new habitual offender statute may effect your pending case or a have been charged as a habitual offender, with a violent crime, with a drug crime or school zone violation, contact the Law Office of Isaac Mass for an evaluation of your case.  Attorney Isaac Mass has been certified as a zealous advocate by the Committee for Public Counsel and serves as a bar advocate with the Franklin County Bar Advocate Associates.  Attorney Mass also handles criminal appellate matters for the Committee for Public Counsel Services.  Attorney Mass handles some private criminal matters for flat fees.

Late Wednesday night the Massachusetts Senate with Sen. Stanley Rosenberg presiding unanimously voted to close a “loophole” in state law meant to enhance penalties for repeat drunk drivers that was exposed last week by the Supreme Judicial Court when it overturned the license suspension of a two-time offender.

Since then, as first predicted here, the Registries of Motor Vehicles have been inundated with Souza Hearings for reinstatement of suspended licenses.  Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Sen. Katherine Clark backed the budget amendment, which Tarr said had been “painstakingly” reviewed and edited so as to apply only to repeat drunk drivers.

 Tarr's amendment, seeks to address the SJC ruling that “continuance without a finding” resolutions in cases against certain defendants accused of operating under the influence are not considered convictions under Melanie’s Law, because the language did not include "or alcohol treatment program" and therefore would not trigger increased license revocation penalties for repeat drunk drivers intended under the law.

The amendment passed 37-0 in the final vote of the night.  Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty has said he would pursue similar action in the House to correct Melanie’s Law. The window is quickly closing on this loophole.  If you have a conviction after a CWOF and want you license reinstated, you must apply to the Registry of Motor Vehicles immediately before the House passes a similar measure and the Governor signs the bill.  For more information or representation before the RMV contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.

Today the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Commonwealth v. McDonald, SJC-10968 (2012) ruled that criminal harassment requires more than repeatedly driving slowly by a home, looking and taking photographs and occasionally parking even near a children’s school bus stop.

To obtain a conviction under the criminal harassment statute, G.L. c. 265, § 43A (a ), the Commonwealth must prove that"

(1) the defendant engaged in a knowing pattern of conduct or speech, or series of acts, on at least three separate occasions;

(2) the defendant intended to target the victim with the harassing conduct or speech, or series of acts, on each occasion;

(3) the conduct or speech, or series of acts, were of such a nature that they seriously alarmed the victim;

(4) the conduct or speech, or series of acts, were of such a nature that they would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress; and

(5) the defendant committed the conduct or speech, or series of acts, 'willfully and maliciously.'

The Court has long held that "The criminal harassment law was passed in response to a perceived loophole in the stalking statute. The stalking statute expressly included within its reach 'threatening' conduct or acts, but left without remedy those victims plagued by harassment that, although potentially dangerous, did not include an overt 'threat' and thus was not actionable under existing law." O'Brien v. Borowski, 461 Mass. 415 (2012).

In this case, however, the court found that “[t]he act of regularly driving on a public street, looking at people in their driveways or on their porches, or at their dogs and gardens, cannot alone support conviction of a wilful and malicious act directed at a specific person. Even direct advances such as striking up a conversation, asking that a person go out for a drink, or suggesting that a woman ask her boss for time off, which justifiably might engender feelings of discomfort, do not, in the absence of evidence of malicious intent, amount to criminal behavior.” See Commonwealth v. Clemens, 61 Mass.App.Ct. 915, 915- 916 (2004) (reversing judgment of conviction where four out of five initial encounters were innocuous and only fifth in series of encounters qualified as harassment).

The court did no go so far as to “suggest that apparently innocent conduct may never, when considered with other evidence, amount to harassment within the meaning of the statute.”  However, that type of additional evidence was not present in McDonald's case. Without such evidence, an element of the offense of criminal harassment has not been proved, and the conviction cannot stand.

If you have been charged with criminal harassment, stalking or another crime you need a lawyer who understands how to argue every element of a crime.  For an assessment of your case contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass

If you are being criminally harassed and the police will not respond to your complaints, you can swear out a civil complaint at your local district court.  After a show cause hearing before a magistrate, if probable cause is found that you are being criminally harassed the District Attorney will evaluate the case.  Criminal Harassment also can rise to the level of tortious conduct and the criminal may be liable for civil damages. For an assessment of your case contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.

Today, in Souza v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, SJC-11123 (2012),Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a Continued Without Finding (CWOF) dismissed after probation does not count as a conviction for the purpose of driver’s license suspension for refusal to take breathalyzer.

Pursuant to G. L. c. 90, § 24 (1) (f) (1) (§ 24 [1] [f] [1]), the Registrar of Motor Vehicles is required to suspend an arrested driver’s license for three years for refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test if the driver has been previously “convicted” of an OUI offense. If the driver has not been previously convicted, the license suspension period is 180 days.

If you have had a second offense OUI conviction but your first offense was continued without a finding, you may be able to get your license back now or at least shorten your suspension period to 180 day.  You may also be able to shorten your suspension period if you have had more than one prior offense.

He Court held held “[i]f the Legislature, in enacting Melanie’s Law, had wanted to include an admission to sufficient facts in the definition of “convicted,” it could have done so explicitly”

The court “recognized that an admission to sufficient facts and an associated continuance without a finding constitute ‘a procedure which often serves the best interests of both the Commonwealth and the defendant. The benefit to a defendant is obvious: he may be able to avoid a trial and ‘earn’ a dismissal of the indictment or complaint, thereby avoiding the consequences of having a criminal conviction on his record.’”  One consequence of the conviction being the longer suspension of the license.

Undoubtedly, this decision will raise the ire of many people who felt the Melanie’s Law was designed to combat the surge of repeat offenders.  They will surely push the legislature to amend Melanie’s Law right away to close this loophole.  If you have had your license suspended by the Registry of Motor Vehicles after any criminal case, you need to have your case reviewed by an attorney right away to see if your suspension can be removed or shortened in duration, before the legislature takes action.  For a evaluation of your case, contact the Law Office of Isaac J. Mass.


(c) 2012 Law Office of Isaac J. Mass, 289 Main Street, Suite 201 Greenfield, MA 01301