Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Three Things to Know if You are Arrested for Growing Marijuana

Two New York City men were arrested on marijuana trafficking charges in August 2020 as the result of a multi-million-dollar marijuana operation they ran out of their Savoy home. Massachusetts law enforcement states that 3,598 marijuana plants estimated to be worth more than $3 million were discovered during a search of the home. The investigation came after Eversource utility workers responded to an electrical problem near the home and discovered that wires had been damaged and overloaded from excessive electricity being sent to the house. Law enforcement later found that utility records showed the home used $10,000 in electricity each month. Bail for both men was set at $100,000.


If you are charged in Massachusetts with growing marijuana, you can face serious penalties that can create challenges that last the rest of your life. Because “grow houses” are becoming more common throughout the country, law enforcement is pursuing these charges more aggressively than ever. To assess whether a person is growing marijuana, law enforcement utilizes various techniques including the analysis of electricity and water usage. There are several helpful tips to follow if you are charged with any offense related to the cultivation of marijuana. 


Law Enforcement Searches Must be Constitutional


Law enforcement officers must perform searches of property that are lawful and reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Warrantless searches by law enforcement officers are presumed to be unreasonable unless law enforcement can establish an exception to the warrant requirement. Even if law enforcement obtains a warrant, there are times when judges mistakenly issue warrants based on insufficient evidence. Remember, the Fourth Amendment only applies to the actions of government actors and does not apply to private citizens.


Not All Informants are Reliable 


Law enforcement often relies on testimonies from people who purchase marijuana from the cultivation center to prosecute these offenders. While informants can be utility workers, they are more often small scale marijuana dealers who view the cultivation as a threat to their business. Many times these informants provide law enforcement with information that is either a lie or a distortion of the truth. An aggressive attorney can help you vigorously cross-examine informants.


Detection Methods can Often be Attacked


While law enforcement might rely on an assessment of electricity usage to detect a grow house, law enforcement frequently relies on more advanced technology including electronic wiretaps, GPS tracking devices, and other types of cutting-edge technology. Sometimes if law enforcement uses these techniques to interfere in areas where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, it is possible to attack any evidence gained through this method. An experienced lawyer can assess each method that law enforcement utilized to make a charge.


Speak with a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney


If you have been charged with a marijuana-related offense in Massachusetts, it is critical to act quickly. Do not hesitate to contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation. 


Three Defenses to Surveillance Footage

A man in Hyde Park was recently arrested after law enforcement released surveillance footage of the man attacking a child. While the man’s name has not yet been released, law enforcement has stated that the man is being charged with indecent assault, battery on a child under the age of 14, and lewd and lascivious conduct. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the assault, which occurred in the area between High and Bussey streets at the beginning of August 2020. Law enforcement has stated that they do not believe the man knew the child at the time of the attack.


If law enforcement has relied on surveillance footage to make a charge, it can prove difficult to attack this evidence and have it excluded from court. Simply because a video is admitted into a court of law, however, does not mean that the video establishes a person’s guilt. Instead, there are common surveillance footage issues that can be introduced to weaken this evidence. The following reviews some of the strongest strategies that can be used to attack surveillance footage.


Tampering With the Footage


There is always the chance that footage has been tampered with in some way. As technology has progressed over the last decade, it has become much easier for anyone to acquire software that can be used to edit a video or photograph. To decrease the risk of tampering, a clear chain of evidence must be shown for the footage. The footage also must come from a credible source. If these requirements are not satisfied, your lawyer can likely create a strong strategy to keep this evidence out of court.


Poor-Quality Footage


While the technology exists, the cost of obtaining high-quality cameras is still high. As a result, many businesses have poor-quality recording systems. This might mean that footage of an offense is blurry, too far away to clearly see anything, or shot from the wrong angle. In the case of poor quality footage, a defense lawyer can often establish that the footage does not accurately depict the person being charged.


The Footage is Incomplete


While footage often depicts the entirety of an act, this is not always the case. Sometimes, footage leaves our earlier incidents that better explain an accident. For example, a person who is charged with assault might have been protecting themselves from another person’s force. Other times, the footage might leave open questions about how the offense occurred. In these situations, an experienced defense lawyer can often argue that the footage is incomplete and positions the person being charged in a false light.


Speak with a Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer


The state of Massachusetts takes crimes against minors seriously, and these convictions can result in substantial penalties. If you are charged with such an offense, it can greatly help the outcome of your case to retain the assistance of a skilled lawyer. Contact Edward R. Molari today.


Two Things You Should Know About Home-Made Guns


A man in Winthrop who built “ghost guns,” which are unregistered and untraceable, in his apartment was charged with criminal offenses in August 2020. Police also found 3,000 rounds of ammunition in the man's home as well as a copy of a book by Adolf Hitler. In response to these charges, the man pled not guilty at his arraignment in Suffolk Superior Court. The man came under attention due to a federal investigation into the illegal shipment of firearm suppressors and silencers. State police later searched the man’s apartment and found two 9mm ghost guns. 


Often sold as part of 80% kits in which the firearms are 80% constructed, ghost guns are not regulated as firearms and can be purchased without a gun license or background check. Instead, a buyer uses step-by-step instructions and household tools to make a working firearm. While the firearms should be registered on completion of the assembly, not everyone does so, and earlier this year there were several cases involving criminal charges against people who made or sold ghost guns. 


The man in Winthrop was not licensed to have a firearm and had a history of arrests involving violent gun use. Currently, the man remains out on bail. 


Massachusetts Firearm Laws Mostly Do Not Apply to Ghost Guns


While technologically impressive, “ghost guns” as well as other cutting edge techniques used to make guns involve important considerations, particularly if a person has a criminal history. While Massachusetts has numerous firearm laws, these regulations do not apply to ghost gun kits because they are not classified as firearms by either the state or federal government. Once a person builds the firearm, however, the weapon must be registered with the state. Despite these registration requirements, there are no sales records for most ghost guns, and as a result, it is often impossible to trace the origin of a firearm. While federal law in 2013 was created to prohibit ghost gun kits used to create assault weapons, this regulation failed.


3D-Printed Guns Also Involved


Similar to assembling a firearm from a ghost gun kit, some people utilize 3D printers to make homemade firearms. 3D printing is a process in which a three-dimensional model is designed on a computer and a printer then places successive layers of material to conform to this pattern. While 3D prints were once prohibitively expensive, these printers are now more modestly priced. 3D-printed guns do not require background checks, registrations, or serial numbers. Because the federal Undetectable Firearms Act makes any firearm that cannot be detected with a metal detector illegal, every firearm is required to contain at least some metal. As a result, metal plates must be placed in 3D printed guns, but it is often impossible for law enforcement to enforce this regulation. 


Retain an Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer


Firearm charges in Massachusetts can result in serious penalties, but a skilled attorney can help. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.



Three Things to Remember About Intent to Distribute Charges

Holyoke law enforcement and the FBI Western Mass Gang Task Force recently arrested a man and woman for drug trafficking after locating more than 4,200 bags of heroin and 460 bags of cocaine in their vehicle. The search of the couple’s vehicle also revealed $3,923 in cash and several two-way radios, which are commonly used in dealing drugs on a street level. Law enforcement stated that neither man nor woman was willing to discuss the drugs. 


The two were charged with trafficking in 100 grams or more of heroin as well as possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The man who was the driver of the vehicle was also charged as a habitual traffic offender for operating the vehicle after his license was revoked. Both the man and woman were held overnight at Hampden County jails.


Intent to distribute charges in Massachusetts carry serious penalties. The following reviews three things that you should remember about intent to distribute charges.


Utilize Strategies to Keep the Drugs Out of Court


If you are facing intent to distribute charges, one of the first steps that your lawyer will help you take is to keep any evidence of the drugs out of court. Courts rely on various rules to determine what evidence can be admitted to trial. Some of the most common strategies include:


  • The drugs were the result of an unlawful search or seizure. If the drugs were only obtained by law enforcement as the result of an unlawful search or seizure, this evidence will likely be dismissed before trial. It is common for law enforcement to claim that they had consented to search a vehicle, but consent cannot be the result of coercement. 

  • Illegal searches or stops. If law enforcement relied on an illegal reason to perform a search or stop of a vehicle without evidence, the resulting evidence will likely be suppressed.

  • Reliability of drug-sniffing canines. Law enforcement in Massachusetts is using an increasing number of canines to detect the presence of drugs. Fortunately, it is often possible to challenge whether these dogs were sufficiently trained or clearly indicated to law enforcement if drugs were found in a vehicle.


There are Ways to Respond if You Did Not Know About the Drugs


There are cases in which a passenger in a vehicle is not aware that drugs were in a vehicle. Fortunately, in these situations, it is often possible to respond to intent to distribute charges on the basis that the person being charged did not actually know about the substances. In these cases, the prosecution almost always cannot establish the intent aspect of the offense.


Appreciate How Law Enforcement Distinguishes Between Drug Dealers and Users


Sometimes, law enforcement arrests individuals with a small number of drugs and charges them with the intent to distribute because these individuals also locate various instruments used to sell drugs like baggies, cell phones, scales, or walkie talkies. If there is an absence of these instruments, law enforcement often requires a substantial amount of drugs to charge a person with intent to distribute. 


Speak a Knowledgeable Drug Defense Attorney


If you are charged with any type of drug-related offense in Massachusetts, you should not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.


When can Law Enforcement Search Your Phone?


A suburban Boston man was arrested recently and charged with the receipt and possession of child pornography. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations as well as the FBI and Massachusetts police. The man was later charged with one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. The charge was initially made after an examination of the man’s phone revealed both images and videos depicting child pornography. The man made an initial appearance through video conference in federal court.


Phones play a valuable role in our lives. Unfortunately, there are several ways that law enforcement officers can lawfully access details stored on your phone, besides arrest. The following reviews some of the most common of these situations.


Data Stored Outside Your Cell Phone


A great deal of information can be stored on the cloud rather than directly on your phone. Unfortunately, if you back up details from your iPhone to Apple’s Cloud, the government can obtain details from Apple. Assuming that law enforcement proceeds through the proper channels, they can most access information that is stored outside of your device. For example, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 states what law enforcement must do in order to obtain this information, which frequently requires a court order, search warrant, or subpoena based on what law enforcement wants to find. 


Data You Shared with Someone Else


If law enforcement wants to obtain information that you shared with someone else, a warrant is not necessary provided that the other party is willing to hand over this information. This is because you do not have a Fourth Amendment interest in messages that are received by someone else.


Personal Data Stored on Your Phone Through Warrant or Subpoena


When it comes to the information stored on your phone, there is a possibility that law enforcement cannot access the data. Sometimes, however, law enforcement can access this data. Provided that you do not have a passcode or law enforcement uses a specialized passcode-cracking program and have the warrant to do so, they can access this information. If your phone is locked with a passcode, and law enforcement cannot crack your password, the information might remain protected by the Fifth Amendment which states that you cannot be compelled to provide self-incriminating evidence.


You Have Passed Away


If you die with incriminating evidence on your phone, it is important to remember that the Fourth and Fifth Amendments often end when a person’s life does. If law enforcement is able to access data on the phone on its own, this evidence can often be obtained. If law enforcement cannot access this data, the phone manufacturer’s approach to privacy problems will often address this situation. 


Contact the Services of a Skilled Massachusetts Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer


The state of Massachusetts takes sex crimes seriously, and being convicted of such an offense can result in various penalties including lasting social stigma, fines, and imprisonment. If you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, do not hesitate to contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.


Three Tips for Responding to Weapons Charges


Two people were placed in custody on July 25 following a shootout at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree that resulted in a teen bystander being injured. Law enforcement surrounded the mall after receiving reports that shots were fired. One of the men who was arrested now faces multiple weapons and assault-related charges. The man is now being held without bail at the Braintree Police Department. Law enforcement later stated that they believed the incident was a targeted incident of violence rather than a random act.


Weapons charges often arise in one of two situations. Law enforcement raises these charges as an add-on charge to a violent crime, or law enforcement searches a person or a vehicle after making contact for a preliminary reason like a traffic stop. To prepare you for responding to these charges, the following reviews four tips for responding to weapon charges.


Law Enforcement Must Have Lawfully Found Your Weapon


Regardless of the surrounding details, law enforcement must have lawfully found your weapon. Some lawful ways in which law enforcement can discover weapons include:


  • The weapon was in “plain view” when law enforcement arrived or the weapon became visible without law enforcement taking any additional action.

  • Law enforcement is permitted to “stop and frisk” someone if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual either has or is about to commit a criminal offense and that the individual is armed.

  • A search was made by law enforcement based on facts that would have led a reasonably prudent person to believe that the search would reveal a weapon.

  • When law enforcement takes an individual into custody, law enforcement can search for weapons to ensure their safety. 


Remember Your Right to Remain Silent


Besides constitutional arguments, many firearm offenses also require law enforcement to require proof of either specific intent or knowledge. Law enforcement is known to ask whether a person owned the firearm and what their use for the weapon was while investigating the offense. This might seem like a harmless question. In reality, law enforcement often relies on this information to prove a charge against you. If you are questioned about a weapon offense, avoid providing information about your permit, your name, or your address.


Understand What Happens if Law Enforcement Does Not Have a Valid Reason


If law enforcement lacks a valid reason for discovering your weapon, remember that the Fourth Amendment protects from unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement did not find the weapon through a lawful means, this evidence is likely unconstitutional and not admissible as evidence in a court of law. If a weapon is found inadmissible, the underlying charge will likely also be dismissed.


Speak with an Experienced Violent Crimes Defense Attorney


If you or a loved one is charged with a violent crime in Massachusetts, understand that a conviction can result in serious penalties. As a result, you should not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today for assistance.


How a Defective Headlight can Lead to Prison

A traffic stop at the end of June 2020 for a defective headlight in Boston resulted in Massachusetts State Police seizing two firearms and arresting three men who attempted to flee from the scene. When questioned, the driver stated that he did not have a license. 

When the vehicle was about to be towed, law enforcement stated that the two passengers sprinted away and that one dropped a handgun. Law enforcement chased the men. One of the men was holding something close to his right hip as he ran, but fell to the ground and gave the item up. Law enforcement found a gun after searching for the man. In all, two fully loaded firearms were seized. 

Law enforcement officers in Massachusetts often stop motorists for moving and traffic violations, but a stop for something like a defective headlight usually does not end up in a search of a vehicle unless the officer finds reasonable suspicion that the motorist is in violation of much more serious laws.

How Law Enforcement Finds Reasonable Suspicion

For law enforcement to have a reason to validly search a vehicle, they must have reasonable suspicion that the driver or passenger is doing something illegal. Often, reasonable suspicion is the result of a law enforcement officer observing something like a person in a vehicle drinking alcohol, drugs being out in the open, or open or observable firearms in a vehicle. Without any facts that support reasonable suspicion, a subsequent arrest is often not lawful. Law enforcement also requires reasonable suspicion, which is more than a hunch, to search the stopped vehicle or this constitutes a violation of the US Constitution.

If a law enforcement officer stopped a vehicle with a broken signal, and there were no other incriminating details present, this would almost certainly not be justification to search the vehicle. If contraband or some other illegal activity was visible through the window or the officers could smell either drugs or alcohol, this might give grounds for reasonable suspicion on which to base a search.

The Role of Probable Cause

Provided that a motorist does not allow them to do so, law enforcement must have probable cause to search a vehicle. If law enforcement stops a person for a broken tail light, this does not mean that the officer now has the authority to search the vehicle. Legitimate reasons to stop a driver do not also constitute probable cause. Instead, law enforcement often will stop the driver and ask them enough questions to see if it provides grounds for probable cause and the search of the vehicle. 

This is why if you are pulled over by a police officer, you should not give any more details than what the officer requests. Other than this information, you should remain silent throughout the encounter. Any information you provide the officer during the stop can later be used against you by law enforcement. 

Speak with a Seasoned Criminal Defense Attorney

To avoid facing undesirable charges, you should not hesitate to obtain the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Contact attorney Edward R Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.


Four Things to Know About Massachusetts Hate Crime Charges

A man in Revere was recently accused of painting racist graffiti, including swastikas, in his neighborhood. The man also spray-painted the phrase “white power” throughout the street. He was arrested on hate crime and vandalism charges and arraigned in Chelsea District Court. The man was later released and required to be monitored by GPS. 

Hate crimes refer to criminal acts that are committed against a victim due to the victim’s belonging to a certain protected group. Hate crimes result in serious harm to the victims, of course, but they also damage the fabric of society. Because hate crimes are an increasingly common occurrence in Massachusetts that carry especially serious penalties, it is worth understanding how these charges are prosecuted in the state.

Understanding “Protected Groups”

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees every citizen a right to free speech, but this does not protect hate crimes. While posting disparaging comments on your personal social account might represent free speech, threatening to injure or kill someone because of their race of gender identity is a crime. Some of the protected characteristics that may not be targeted without being charged with a hate crime include:

  • Color

  • Disability

  • Gender

  • National origin

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Sexual orientation

If the perpetrator of a crime mistakenly targets a victim because of their perceived membership to a protected group, even if that person is not really a member of that group, the person who committed the crime can still be charged with a hate crime. For example, if someone assaults someone else because they are Jewish, but the victim turns out to be Christian, the attacker can still be charged with a hate crime.

How Hate Crimes are Categorized

Hate crimes can be committed against a person, several people, or an institution. Not all crimes committed against members of a protected group are hate crimes. A hate crime must be committed against a victim because of his or her membership in that group. 

To convict a person of a hate crime, the prosecution must establish that the crime was motivated by the victim’s protected status. To determine this element, the prosecution will often look for evidence of the defendant’s use of slurs against the protected group. These statements are often provided by witnesses, emails, or social media posts. 


Defenses to Hate Crimes

If you have been charged with a hate crime, one of the best things to do is to retain the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Some of the defenses used to respond to hate crime charges include arguing that:

  • The prosecution lacks sufficient evidence on which to base a charge.

  • The person being charged was unaware of the other party’s protected class.

  • There was a mistaken identity.

  • The crime in question was not motivated against the supposed target group.

  • A person’s words can be taken out of context and perceived as a threat.

  • The allegations can be the underlying result of tensions in a neighborhood and workplace and the person charged might be used as a scapegoat for a greater problem. 

Speak with a Hate Crimes Defense Attorney

Hate crime convictions carry serious repercussions, including a tarnished social reputation. If you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, do not hesitate to contact attorney Edward R Molari today.

Three Things to Understand About Defeating Drug Distribution Charges in Massachusetts

A man was arraigned in Ayer District Court recently after he was found to have been in possession of cocaine with a street value of $16,8000 and marijuana estimated at approximately $2,850. The man was also in possession of two illegally-owned handguns. 

The arrest was the result of an investigation into an alleged cocaine distribution scheme in the Westford area. A search of a home and a Tyngsboro storage locker led to the discovery of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine. The suspect was also found in possession of marijuana with an estimated street value of $2,850, two illegally-owned handguns, $45,8000 in cash, and drug packaging materials.

Based on a report provided by the district’s attorney’s office, the suspect was engaged in a long-standing cocaine distribution network. The suspect was charged with trafficking cocaine over 100 grams, conspiracy to violate drug laws, possession with intent to distribute a Class B substance, possession of a Class D substance, possession of a Class B substance, and possession of a firearm without a license.

Defeating Distribution Charges in Massachusetts

One of the most powerful ways to beat distribution charges in Massachusetts is by attacking the basis of the Commonwealth’s evidence regarding drug possession. While cocaine charges are often easier to resolve than those involving Fentanyl or heroin, no charge is without its defenses. This article reviews four of the most common techniques used to weaken the prosecution’s argument.

The Prosecution Must Establish Distribution

To prove distribution, the prosecution must establish that the person being charged “intentionally or knowingly” distributed the substance. Massachusetts law defines distribution as any method of delivery, which involves the process of transferring a controlled substance from one person to another. If law enforcement cannot show that a person distributed drugs, a distribution conviction will not stand. 

Establishing Constructive Transfer

Constructive transfer occurs if the prosecution can show that a person was aware of a transaction and in control of the transaction. A person need not have physically been present at the time of distribution. Instead, “constructive transfer” can be shown if there is proof of communication between the person being charged and the individual who actually transferred the drugs.

Probable Cause Was Lacking

Before searching a home, Massachusetts law enforcement obtains a warrant by arguing that there was probable cause for such a warrant to be issued. Judges in Massachusetts only issue search warrants in drug offenses when a law enforcement officer prepares an affidavit proving probable cause to believe that the drugs will be found in the place to be searched. Many search warrants rely on information supplied to law enforcement by confidential informants, but law enforcement officers can only rely on this information if it is classified as both reliable and trustworthy. As a result, it is often possible to attack the constitutional basis of a search warrant by arguing that the motion should have been suppressed.

Do Not Hesitate to Speak with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyer

Drug charges are a serious matter. If you need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney today, do not hesitate to contact attorney Edward R Molari.


Discharging a Firearm Defense

A Mattapan man faces charges after law enforcement found him carrying a firearm, live ammunition, and drugs in Dorchester. 

The charges came after law enforcement officers heard multiple gunshots and saw a vehicle leaving a parking lot at a high speed. Officers approached the vehicle and ordered the driver out, but he refused. Consequently, law enforcement forcibly removed the driver from the vehicle and discovered a firearm. The officers also seized 20 rounds of live ammunition located in a gun box in the vehicle’s trunk as well as a medium-sized bag in the vehicle’s center console containing a drug-like substance.

The man was charged with carrying a loaded firearm without a license, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, and possession of class A drugs. 

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 section 12E states that it is a criminal offense for a person to discharge a firearm within 500 feet of any building or dwelling without the consent of the occupant or owner. Because a conviction of this offense can result in a person facing fines of up to $100 and imprisonment for a maximum of three months, people must understand how they can defend against these charges.

Defenses That do Not Work

There are some common misconceptions about what defenses work in response to the charge of discharging a firearm. Some strategies that will not be sufficient in response to these charges include:

  • You were not firing live ammunition. A person can be charged with the offense whether they discharged blank rounds or live ammunition.

  • You fired at night or early in the morning. The purpose of the law is to protect the occupants of buildings. As a result, these laws apply during any time of the day or night.

  • You did not know you were discharging the firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. You can still be convicted of this offense even if you did not know that you were discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.

Successful Defenses to This Charge

Several defenses work in response to these charges, which include:

  • Lack of evidence. The prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that your firearm was discharged within 500 feet of a building or dwelling. It can be challenging for the prosecution to collect adequate evidence to support a charge.

  • Why You Discharged the Weapon. There are several recognized exemptions to discharging a firearm. Some of these exemptions include people who discharged a firearm in defense of life or property and law enforcement officers who discharged their firearm while in the line of duty.

  • Where You Discharged the Weapon. Despite the 500 feet law, there are some locations where a person can discharge a weapon. For example, a person can discharge a firearm in a license shooting gallery. A person can also discharge blank cartridges for athletic, ceremonial, theatrical, firing square, or firework displays.

Speak With a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a criminal offense, you should not hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Contact attorney Edward R. Molari today to schedule a free case evaluation.