Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts Judge Resigns After Facing Accusations from Anonymous Source

A judge known for his tough stance on drug crime has resigned in Massachusetts after facing accusations from an anonymous source. Judges play an important role in our society, and in many ways, our very democracy hinges on their ability to make fair, unbiased rulings. Because of their pivotal role, even the slightest allegations of wrongdoing raise alarm bells. It is not clear exactly what happened in this situation, but the sudden resignation of First Justice Douglas Darnbrough certainly leaves many questions unanswered.  

Douglas Darnbrough's Story Has Been Unraveling for Months

For many people, Darnbrough's departure from the legal world is not much of a surprise. Even casual newsreaders probably predicted such an eventuality, as the media has been asking questions about this judge for months. In October of 2023, NBC reported that Darnbrough was serving in a different county than usual after an unexplained 20-day absence. Reporters began inquiring about the situation as early as September, and they were initially informed that an "anonymous letter" had surfaced.

According to various rumors, this letter contained a certain allegation (or a number of allegations, depending on who you ask) against the judge. Apparently, this letter has been circulating around the legal world – implying that whoever wrote it knew how to distribute it in a far-reaching manner to the most important members of Massachusetts' legal community. 

Reporters struggled to find any further information, although one was apparently informed of an "open investigation" against the judge. There was also conflicting information about whether or not Darnbrough had been suspended or whether he had been placed on administrative leave. At least one team of reporters spotted the judge at his home on multiple occasions, suggesting that he was not going to work. Finally, the court claimed that Darnbrough was "on vacation." Later in October, reporters apparently spotted the judge back at work at the Plymouth District Court. Weeks later, he publicly "signaled his resignation."

What Could Have Caused this Sudden Resignation?

We can only speculate as to what caused this sudden departure. Members of Massachusetts' legal community might have more clues, as they probably saw this infamous letter and its anonymous allegations. The allegations in the letter were never vetted, so it's open to speculation as to how much truth there may be to them. As a defense lawyer, it's certainly not my business to suggest that allegations alone should be enough to establish guilt.

Work With a Defense Attorney in Massachusetts

To learn more about the latest developments in Massachusett's criminal justice world, feel free to reach out to Edward R. Molari. With many years of experience as a Boston defense attorney, Mr. Molari keeps a keen eye on the ever-evolving judicial system in the Commonwealth – giving him valuable insights as he defends various clients. 

Commonwealth Prosecutors Failed to Establish that Defendant Lacked a Firearms License

 It might seem obvious that in order to convict a defendant of unlawfully carrying a firearm, the prosecution would need to show the absence of a firearms license. However, one defendant in Massachusetts was convicted without the subject of a firearms license even entering into the discussion. The defendant predictably appealed the decision, and this led to an interesting debate surrounding the Second Amendment. In the end, the defendant was able to have most of his charges vacated.

The 2022 Supreme Court Decision That Changed the Outcome of This Case

In 2022, the United States Supreme Court decided that the 1911 Sullivan Act was unconstitutional. This act required New Yorkers to show a special need or “proper cause” in order to gain approval for a concealed carry license. The Supreme Court concluded that the Second Amendment supersedes this act, stating that every United States citizen should have the ability to carry a pistol in public. Arbitrary evaluations such as the “proper cause” requirement are now unconstitutional, while criminal background checks may still result in a denied application. 

So, what does this have to do with the Massachusetts case? First, a little bit of background: The defendant was found with a firearm, bullets, and a large-capacity magazine. His attorney argued that police conducted the search without a warrant, claiming that this violated the Fourth Amendment. Nevertheless, the defendant found himself facing several charges, including unlawfully carrying a firearm.  

The Burden of Proof Has Shifted

The prosecution was seemingly unaware of the Supreme Court ruling’s implications, as they did not feel that it was necessary to prove the absence of a firearm license during the trial. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, the burden of proof was on the defendant. In other words, the defendants accused of unlawfully carrying firearms had to prove that they had a license. Today, however, the situation is completely reversed. The burden of proof now lies with the prosecution, and it is their responsibility to prove the absence of a firearm license. If they fail to do this for whatever reason, the court should presume that the defendant is innocent. 

The court did not presume the defendant’s innocence, and instead, the judge completely failed to take the Supreme Court ruling into account. He also failed to instruct the jury that in order to convict the defendant, they had to see the prosecution establish the lack of a license. 

Eventually, the highest court in the Commonwealth became aware of their mistake and vacated most of the charges made against the defendant. However, they did not vacate the charge related to the extended magazine – arguing that such a device goes beyond a simple need for personal protection. Although this clearly indicates a victory for the defendant, it is somewhat bittersweet. Although the charges were vacated, the Commonwealth remanded the case to the Supreme Court for a new trial. 

What Does This Mean for Gun Owners in Massachusetts?

It’s always a good idea to follow state laws and obtain proper licenses for your firearms. However, the Supreme Court of the United States clearly protects Second Amendment rights and gun owners on a national scale. Sometimes, the Constitution supersedes state law when it comes to gun legislation. Contact Edward R. Molari today to learn more about how you can protect your Second Amendment rights in Massachusetts

Can a Fired Police Officer Give Reliable Testimony in a Criminal Case?

Many criminal cases in Massachusetts hinge on the testimony of police officers, but what happens when these officers are terminated or no longer employed by their department? If their testimony is necessary for prosecution, the criminal case becomes impossible to prosecute. We have seen many examples of these situations in Massachusetts over the past few years and months.  

The Massachusetts POST Commission Explained

According to the Massachusetts government, the POST Commission was created to “improve policing and enhance public confidence in law enforcement.” The commission aims to accomplish this goal by overseeing stricter regulations in terms of mandatory certification, discipline, and training for all peace officers within the Commonwealth. The acronym stands for “Peace Officer Standards and Training.”

The commission regularly releases statements and public records regarding disciplinary records. The most recent of these statements was released in September of 2023. The POST Commission’s web page allows users to:

  • View disciplinary records
  • View the statute of each peace officer
  • View decisions and orders
  • File police misconduct complaints
  • Learn about the adjudicatory process
  • Read the commission’s annual reports

What Effect Does the POST Commission Have on an Officer’s Ability to Testify?

The POST Commission can decertify police officers. In doing so, this may prevent officers from testifying in court due to the loss of their official positions. For example, the POST Commission decertified five officers in October of 2023 after they were convicted of felonies. These charges included issuing fake tickets to civilians, child exploitation, filing false reports, and others. 

In September 2016, it was confirmed that officers at the Braintree Police Department had been removing drugs, weapons, and cash from the evidence room. One officer committed suicide after their alleged involvement became clear, and numerous cases had to be dismissed as a result of the evidence going missing. Judges considered whether to vacate thousands of convictions related to the now-unreliable evidence from the Braintree Department. 

In June of 2023, a former Fall River police officer was sentenced to 18 months after a jury convicted him of beating a man and filing false reports. The fact that he has been convicted of filing one false report throws doubt upon all of his prior reports as well – and his criminal charges may, in fact, lead to more lenient sentences for defendants who were previously arrested by this fired officer. 

Where Can I Find a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney in Massachusetts?

If you have been searching for a criminal defense attorney in Massachusetts, look no further than Edward R. Molari. A terminated police officer who cannot provide testimony is just one example of a potential situation that may work in a defendant’s favor. To learn more about defense strategies that may apply to your specific situations, book a consultation today. 

The Elusive Definition of “Ghost Guns” in Massachusetts

One of the most notable buzzwords in modern American gun regulation is “ghost gun.” This is especially true with the rise of 3D printing. The problem is that many people – including responsible, legal gun owners – have no idea what this phrase actually means. It does not help that ghost gun legislation in Massachusetts is often vague and misleading, causing many gun owners to accidentally commit firearms offenses. So what exactly is a “ghost gun” in Massachusetts, and how can you avoid charges related to these weapons? 

An Example of a Ghost Gun Charge in Massachusetts

On September 25, 2023, it was reported that a suspect had been arrested with a firearm in Boston. Police were reportedly on a routine patrol when they encountered a suspect who was wanted for a recent assault with a firearm. The police then approached the individual and began a conversation. After searching the defendant, the police discovered a firearm. Upon closer inspection, the police saw that the firearm in question was a so-called “ghost gun.” They also reportedly found illegal drugs on the individual. 

As a result, the defendant was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of a firearm during a felony, and possession of class A and B drugs with intent to distribute. 

What Exactly is the Definition of a Ghost Gun in Massachusetts?

So, what exactly was this defendant caught with? An image from the police report seems to show a normal handgun. While the lower section of the handgun is made from a gray plastic material, this is not altogether abnormal in the world of modern firearms. In fact, manufacturers such as Glock sell factory-made pistols with “concrete gray” lower components. In addition, Glock and many other pistol manufacturers use plastic composites for their firearms, including nylon-based polymers. In other words, police may not find it easy to distinguish between factory-made pistols and those with 3D-printed plastic components. 

The real definition of a ghost gun involves serial numbers and not necessarily the materials or methods of construction. According to numerous sources, ghost guns are firearms that have no serial numbers or identifying marks. These are often constructed by gun owners who collect numerous parts from various sources before assembling the final firearm. 

Note that it is legal to construct your own firearm from various parts in Massachusetts – and there is no specific law against untraceable firearms in the state. However, there are a number of considerations and caveats:

  • Once you build your firearm, you must register it within seven days
  • If you are not legally permitted to own a firearm, you still cannot possess a ghost gun
  • You cannot deface or obliterate a serial number from a firearm

The last issue is the most important, as those found guilty can face between one month and two and a half years behind bars. Note that even if you knowingly receive a firearm with a defaced serial number, you can still face this charge. That said, there is no legal penalty for possessing or receiving a firearm that never had a serial number in the first place

Where Can I Find a Boston Defense Attorney?

If you’ve been searching for an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney, look no further than Edward R. Molari. Ghost gun legislation can be incredibly confusing for the average gun owner in Boston, and it often takes an experienced attorney to make sense of it all. Book your consultation today to discuss any potential legal consequences you might be facing as a result of so-called ghost guns.

When Does Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle Lead to Criminal Charges in Massachusetts?

It is often very difficult to discern between genuine car accidents and collisions caused by negligent drivers. However, according to Massachusetts law, there is a clear line between accidents and negligence. For those who are accused of causing vehicle collisions, the difference between these two concepts could be significant. It makes sense to work with a qualified defense attorney in Boston and show that the accident was just that – an accident.  

What is “Negligent Operation of a Motor Vehicle” in Massachusetts?

Negligent operation of a motor vehicle is a criminal offense in Massachusetts. This is somewhat confusing, as “negligence” is a concept more closely aligned with civil lawsuits than criminal charges. When a defendant is successfully sued in a civil case, they are found to be “negligent,” while a defendant in a criminal case is found to be “guilty.” Perhaps a more clear word would be “reckless,” and indeed this offense is often called “reckless operation of a motor vehicle” instead. 

Negligent operation of a motor vehicle is defined according to Section 24(2)(a) of chapter 90 of Massachusetts’ General Laws:

Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right to access, or [in] any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, operates a motor vehicle negligently so that the lives or safety of the public might be endangered, shall be punished.”

Penalties for this offense can vary dramatically depending on factors such as speed, intoxication, and whether the defendant caused injuries or death. That being said, most courts impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two weeks in jail, with the maximum sentence being two years. There is also the possibility of fines and license suspension. 

What is the Line Between an “Accident” and Negligent Operation?

The line between an accident and criminal negligent operation is very thin in Massachusetts. This makes it exceedingly important to avoid speaking to police after the crash and while you are being investigated for this alleged offense. Even a single sentence may incriminate you under the wrong circumstances. A recent case shows that when a defendant admitted he was not familiar with a particular neighborhood, the court interpreted this as an admission of guilt and convicted him of negligent operation of a motor vehicle. It takes very little for the Commonwealth to prove that you crossed the thin line between a genuine accident and negligent operation. 

Where Can I Find an Experienced Defense Attorney in Boston?

If you have been searching for an experienced defense attorney in Boston, look no further than Edward R. Molari. We know that mistakes happen when you get behind the wheel, and it does not make sense to accept needlessly excessive criminal consequences for an accident that you never intended to cause. Book a consultation today to determine the most appropriate defense strategy based on your unique circumstances. 

The So-Called Canton Cover-Up: Who Really Killed Officer O’Keefe?

One of the most complex Boston murder cases in recent years is the so-called “Canton Cover-Up” – a case involving a girlfrien accused of murdering her police officer boyfriend. Despite the fact that it still has not reached trial, this case has already taken quite a few twists and turns. Its outcome will highlight the relative strengths and weaknesses of potential legal strategies in a Massachusetts murder case.  

What We Know About the Alleged Murder

Officer John O’Keefe was found dead in January of 2022. Almost immediately, his girlfriend Karen Read became a prime suspect. Police later accused her of hitting her husband with an SUV before leaving the scene. Medical examiners found no signs of an altercation but reported injuries to his right arm consistent with some kind of blunt object. In addition, they discovered multiple skull fractures. The cause of death was determined to be a combination of these injuries and hypothermia, as there had been a blizzard that night. 

The Disputed Facts

Aside from these basic facts, almost everything else about the alleged murder has been disputed. Prosecutors say that Karen’s tail light was shattered when she struck O'Keefe and that plastic fragments were recovered near his body. The defense, however, points to footage that shows Karen striking O'Keefe’s parked vehicle as she backed out of her residence after learning of his disappearance. 

The cause of the police officer’s death is also heavily debated. While the prosecution claims that this is a clear-cut case of a hit-and-run vehicular fatality, additional evidence has emerged that suggests different injuries. In particular, some have claimed that there are signs of some kind of animal attack – and possibly a beating from a weapon. 

A range of additional evidence is also heavily disputed, including cell phone data, witness statements, Karen’s alleged level of intoxication, and much more. In particular, court documents filed by the defense claim that the prosecution withheld crucial cell phone data for “more than a year.” The key piece of evidence here is Karen’s alleged Google search with the query “how long to die in the cold.” The prosecution claims that this search was made before the body was found, while the defense claims that she only typed in these words after she learned of her husband’s disappearance. The prosecution has also defended their decision not to provide certain documents, arguing that they simply were not relevant to the case. 

We can only hope that the upcoming trial answers these unresolved questions. 

Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help With Murder Charges in Boston?

The Canton Cover-Up has highlighted various strategies that a defendant may use when accused of murder. It remains to be seen whether these strategies will prove successful, but it is certainly possible that Karen Read will walk free. If you have been accused of murder or any other violent crime, you can strive for the same goal alongside a qualified defense attorney in Boston. Choose Edward R. Molari today and book a consultation to discuss the most appropriate defense strategy. 

Authorities Make Wild Assumptions About Caribbean Carnival Festival Violence

The Caribbean Carnival Festival in Boston draws thousands of visitors each year, and it provides a memorable end to the summer months with all kinds of attractions on the street. Unfortunately, these celebrations can also become violent. Recent reporting on this violence has been incredibly misleading, with both reporters and authorities jumping to wild conclusions based on questionable evidence. If you are facing false accusations of violence in Boston, a defense attorney may be the only way to clear up these confusions.  

Boston Guns – Firearms Shooting Dorchester Reports Rely on Scant Evidence

On August 28, 25 News reported that rival gangs were “staring each other down” during the Caribbean Carnival Festival in Boston. Police stated that these individuals represented an “immediate threat to the general public” and that the groups exchanged gunfire as they approached in an effort to address the situation. 

However, it should be noted that the report never actually provides conclusive statements that the gunfire was coming from these individuals. Instead, the article states that officers “heard multiple gunshots begin to ring out from the location of the group they were approaching.” Note that they are very careful to state that they did not actually see these individuals discharging firearms. Secondly, the report states that the officers “heard what they believed to be return gunfire from another location.” Again, when you examine the wording, it becomes clear that no one actually saw the individuals in question discharging their firearms. Indeed, it may very well be that these two shootings were completely independent events. 

Violence Unfairly Attributed to One Specific House in Boston

The tendency for the authorities to jump to conclusions is nothing new, and another example involves one specific house on Tiny Street. But while the story might make a good headline, there is little conclusive evidence that ties the house to gang activity. Reporters point to shell casings on the street, and cars with bullet holes parked nearby, but one of the residents at this home vehemently denies that his home is being used as a “trap house.” Instead, he accuses the reporters of fabricating stories – and he argues that it is interfering with his efforts to “get his life back together.”

If reporters were making up lies about the residences of wealthy individuals in high-income neighborhoods, they would probably be sued for defamation. 

Where Can I Find an Experienced Defense Attorney in Boston?

If you have been searching for a qualified criminal defense attorney in Boston, look no further than Edward R. Molari. Over the years, we have helped numerous defendants in the Boston area, including those accused of committing violence during street festivals. We are well aware of authorities’ tendency to jump to conclusions, and we can expose the shaky foundations that their questionable evidence is based on. Contact us today to get started with an effective defense strategy. 

How Do Prosecutors Calculate Drug Quantities for Trafficking Charges in Boston?

Trafficking charges can be quite serious in Boston, and the severity of these charges often depends on the specific drug quantities involved. But how exactly do prosecutors calculate the weight or dosage of drugs that defendants may have had at the time of their arrest? Some might assume that this is simply a matter of weighing the drugs, but the process is more complex than many realize. Judging by a recent case, some might even argue that the process is unfair.  

Sentencing for Cocaine Trafficking Depends on the Quantities Involved

On a general note, the potential sentences for cocaine trafficking depend on the quantities involved:

  • Between 18 and 36 grams: Between two and15 years in prison, suspension of driver’s license for five years, and fines of up to $25,000. A conviction could also lead to a lifetime ineligibility for a Commercial Driver’s License. 
  • Between 36 and 100 grams: Between 3.5 and 20 years in prison, suspension of driver’s license for up to five years, and a fine of up to $50,000. Possible lifetime ineligibility for a Commercial Driver’s License. 
  • Between 100 and 200 grams: Between eight and 20 years in prison, suspension of driver’s license, and potential lifetime ineligibility for a Commercial Driver’s License. 
  • 200 grams or more: Between 12 and 20 years in prison, five-year driver’s license suspension, and possible lifetime ineligibility for a Commercial Driver’s License. 

Cutting Agents are Included in Weight Calculations

What many people do not understand about prosecutors’ weight calculations is that cutting agents are included. For example, the entire weight of a bag that contains 60% cutting agent and 40% cocaine would be used for these calculations. In one case involving Brockton drug trafficking charges, a defendant was charged with cocaine trafficking between 18 and 36 grams, even though these calculations were based on bags that contained zero cocaine. 

Fortunately, the defendant was able to work with Edward R. Molari to fight these charges. This Boston defense attorney had the bag examined by an expert, and the resulting lab report showed that the presence of cocaine was extremely low. In fact, it was so low that it was comparable to trace cocaine levels found on an average paper bill. As a result of this strategy, the weight was revised to a level under 18 grams, and the defendant received a much lower sentence with no mandatory minimum. 

Where Can I Find a Drug Crimes Attorney in Boston?

If you have been searching for an experienced defense attorney in Boston, look no further than the Law Office of Edward R. Molari. We have helped numerous defendants fight trafficking charges over the years, and we are well aware of prosecutors’ questionable processes when it comes to calculating drug quantities. With our assistance, you can push back against these strategies and fight for your constitutional rights. Book your consultation today to get started. 

Why a Judge Denied an Attempt to Dismiss Brockton Police Negligent Operations Charges

In May of 2021, the former chief of the Brockton Police veered off the road on I-495 before striking two vehicles. The police cruiser went across three lanes, and the crash injured five people – including one toddler. He subsequently faced charges for negligent driving – although he initially walked free after the crash. The case went completely unreported for months – and it was only after an NBC investigation that the incident came to light. Reporters also discovered that this police chief had been charged with negligent driving before and that he had attempted to have these charges dismissed. Now, this individual is attempting to have these new charges dismissed as well – and he is not having much success. But why exactly did a judge deny his attempt to have his charges dismissed? 

Former Police Chief Faces Overwhelming Evidence Against Him

When denying the attempt to have the case dismissed, the presiding judge pointed at various forms of evidence laid out against the defendant. This evidence includes testimony from numerous eyewitnesses who saw the police cruiser veer across three lanes of traffic before striking multiple vehicles. The judge stated that this evidence was "clearly sufficient" and specifically highlighted testimony from a Massachusetts State Police trooper who responded to the scene of the crash. 

Speaking about the crash, this State Police trooper explained:

"He essentially didn't know what happened, and I pointed out what had happened, that he came off the ramp, that he rear-ended a vehicle in the breakdown lane, and he went out into the highway and collided with another SUV. So I pointed it out to him."

Interestingly, it seems that a private citizen issued a criminal complaint against the former police chief. Initially, no police authority brought about these charges. The complaint states that:

"It seems on review that the Police Chief had absolutely no control of the vehicle at any time during the crash. The only plausible reason is that the Police Chief was, literally, asleep at the wheel. This is supported by the Chief's own statement 'it all happened so fast. I do not know what happened.'"

Evidence is an Important Consideration for Judges When Dismissing Criminal Cases

Judges must review evidence when considering whether or not to accept a petition to dismiss criminal cases. Specifically, under Commonwealth v. Daley, 66 Mass. App. Ct. 254 (2006), the "danger must come from Defendant's driving" in the case of a negligent driving charge. 

Where Can I Find a Criminal Defense Attorney in Boston?

If you have been searching for an experienced criminal defense attorney in Boston, look no further than the Law Office of Edward R. Molari. With our assistance, you can strive to have your criminal charges dismissed quickly. While this police chief might have failed to have his charges dismissed, there are many situations in which this strategy can be successful. Reach out today to discuss your legal options and get started with an effective defense strategy. 

Can You Really Go to Jail for Improper Storage of a Firearm in Massachusetts?

One of the first things people learn in gun safety courses is the proper storage of firearms. All responsible gun owners can agree that storing your firearms is incredibly important, especially if you have children in your home. But can you really go to jail for improper storage of a firearm in Massachusetts? The answer may surprise you.

 

Man Faces Up to 12 Years After Boy Fatally Shot by Improperly Stored Firearm

 

A man in Boston is now facing a maximum sentence of 12 years after a fatal accident involving improper storage of a firearm. The 22-year-old defendant stored his firearm in a fanny pack in a residence where a 12-year-old child had easy access to it. All reports seem to indicate that the child accidentally shot himself in the chest with the weapon after taking it out of the fanny pack. The gunshot wound proved to be fatal. 

 

As a result, the defendant has been charged with improper storage of a firearm near a minor, an offense that comes with a maximum prison sentence of 12 years. The minimum sentence is 1.5 years in prison. Alternatively, a jail sentence of between 1 and 2.5 years may be possible, plus a fine of up to $15,000. 

 

How Should I Store My Firearm in Boston?

 

Massachusetts has strict guidelines on how guns should be stored. You essentially have two options: Install a locking device directly onto the firearm itself, or lock the firearm in some kind of container. If you choose the second option, you do not need to install a safety lock on the firearm itself. In addition, authorities in Massachusetts "recommend" that you store ammo and guns separately – although this is not explicitly required. 

 

A safety device installed directly onto the weapon must prevent the firearm from discharging. There are specific firearm locks available, and these may be installed directly onto the trigger guards. With the trigger disabled, the firearm is not operable. A gun lock may also be looped through the firearm in a manner that holds its bolt open, preventing the firing pin from moving forward. Many gun owners use bike locks in this manner. Some might argue that a zip tie is also acceptable, although it is best to use a more secure option. Guns may also be "disabled" by removing certain components and storing them separately. For example, you might remove the bolt on a bolt-action hunting rifle. However, authorities in Massachusetts make it clear that a locking safety device is the only acceptable option. 

 

One might argue that if the aforementioned defendant had put a simple lock on the zip of his fanny pack, he might have avoided the tragedy. However, it is not clear whether this locked fanny pack would classify as a proper "container" under Massachusetts law. In reality, the wording refers primarily to gun safes or hard-shelled, tough gun cases. 

 

Where Can I Find an xperienced Defense Attorney in Massachusetts?

 

If you have been searching for a Boston defense attorney who can help with firearm offenses, look no further than the Law Office of Edward R. Molari. We know that it might seem ridiculous to face charges simply because you forgot to secure your firearms on a single occasion, but legal consequences are a real possibility in this situation. Book your consultation today to discuss potential defense strategies geared toward your unique situation. 

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