The path has been cleared by the Massachusetts Supreme Court for a dangerousness hearing in the case of a teacher accused of sex with three, 14-year-old female students.
Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers understand that the issue in this case was the question of whether lack of evidence regarding the presence of physical force – or threat of physical force – precluded the necessity of a dangerousness hearing.
Ultimately, Massachusetts Supreme Court justices ruled that the crimes of which the teacher is accused inherently would have required at least some level of physical force on the defendant’s part in order to be carried out – i.e., penetration. This was regardless of the fact that there does not appear to be evidence of any other physical force in connection with the alleged crimes.
To help you better understand, we need to first explore what a dangerousness hearing is and why they are requested. Dangerousness hearings, as spelled out in M.G.L. Chapter 276 Section 58A, are court hearings held after arrest but prior to trial for a person accused of certain felony crimes involving force or threat of force.
The idea is to determine whether the state should hold you – for a period of up to 90 days – based on the belief that you may be a threat to society. It’s separate from a bond hearing.
For example, in this case, the 33-year-old defendant had been released on bond, following his arrest on five counts of enticing a child under the age of 16, two counts of disseminating obscene matter to a minor, four counts of aggravated statutory rape and one count of reckless child endangerment. Upon his release, he was fitted with a monitoring device, and he continues to await trial.
However, the prosecutor had sought a dangerousness hearing in an effort to get him back into law enforcement custody for at least three months.
In many cases, a client is not released before such a hearing is requested — but instead remains behind bars without bail. It’s important to note that a defendant can – and in most cases should – petition the court as to the necessity of a dangerousness hearing in the first place.
And that’s what happened here.
When prosecutors first requested the hearing, the lower judge ruled that the aggravated statutory rape charge didn’t meet the terms as spelled out in M.G.L. Chapter 276 Section 58A because there was no use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force.
However, prosecutors appealed that decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The Commonwealth’s high court reversed the lower court’s ruling, stating that some force would have been necessary to consummate the crime.
What that means is that the dangerousness hearing can move forward.
What’s likely to happen? While it’s difficult to predict the outcome in any case, some of the factors that will be considered, as in any dangerousness hearing, are:
- The nature and the circumstances of the alleged crime;
- Whether the individual would pose a great risk to the community if released;
- Whether the individual has a history of mental illness;
- What type of employment record the person has;
- What family ties the accused has in the community;
- What sort of risk exists that the individual may threaten witnesses or otherwise interfere with the investigation if released;
- Whether the accused has a history of alcohol or drug dependency;
- What is the reputation of the defendant;
- What is the criminal history and prior bail violations of the defendant.
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