The Orlando shooter’s widow, Noor Salman was denied bail pending her upcoming trial. Often, in a serious case involving death, a defendant will be held without bail as the Court concludes no amount of money will ensure the person’s appearance in court.  Since bail is not meant to punish someone prior to trial, given the presumption of innocence, in a high profile case it put a judge in a difficult position as to whether to set a bail.

Her attorneys are planning to argue that Salman is not a public safety threat, and is not at a risk of fleeing before her trial date approaches. In this case, family members have offered their homes as collateral in desperate hopes to get Salman out on bail.

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Oman Mateen was the gunman and husband to Salman who walked into a Florida nightclub and shot and killed 49 people, wounding an additional 53 individuals. The upcoming trial is in regards to Salman’s alleged claim that she supported her husband’s terroristic plans; Salman was originally arrested back in November after authorities suspected that she helped her husband plan the attack on Pulse Nightclub. While the prosecution has not released a bulk of the evidence they have collected on Salman, an attorney on her case, Haitham Amin, noted that it appears as if Salman is going to be charged with being present when her husband was planning the attacks.

Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court addressed a plan to handle the numerous potentially-tainted drug cases that are a result of Annie Dookhans mishandling of evidence. Originally, there were several indications that the criminal justice system would adopt a blanket approach to handling the cases; many people called for complete and utter dismissal of all convictions tied to Annie. However, the Supreme Judicial Court ultimately declined this method, and outlined a process to put the scandal in the past.

Massachusetts District Attorneys are going to have the responsibility of sorting through and dismissing any cases that would not be able to be re-prosecuted in a court of law. In accordance, District attorneys across the state will have 90 days to accomplish this task, and notably have to follow a three-step process in doing so; defendants whose cases would not be dropped will be alerted, and will have an opportunity to obtain counsel if they want to dismiss their plea or request a new trial. If you want to stay informed make sure to read the latest news on the Annie Dookan case at the Bostonherald.com.

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Dookhan was a chemist at a Boston Laboratory utilized frequently by the Massachusetts State Police, the Hinton State Laboratory Institute; where she was eventually caught and admitted to faking drug results, forging paperwork and mixing false samples. There are allegedly more than 24,000 defendants that, through a process, have been linked to Dookhan.

When a person is pulled over and ultimately arrested for a drunk driving called OUI in Massachusetts and DUI in most parts of the country, most people would inherently draw a link between drinking and driving. Teenagers, especially, are quick to be stereotyped and labeled for this “behavior”.  What if they were exhibiting symptoms of being drunk, while actually suffering from anxiety or depression? While anxiety and depression symptoms range from person to person, often times the many symptoms are nearly identical to the symptoms that someone under the influence could exhibit.

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Anxiety disorders, time and time again, have proven to be the most common mental illness among Americans; many Americans fail to seek treatment for their illness and end up suffering from a host of devastating symptoms. The ADAA, or The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reported that if a person suffers from anxiety, it is definitely not uncommon for them to simultaneously suffer from depression. For this reason, it makes sense that the symptoms a person exhibits could be significant enough for a law enforcement officer to mistake a person as being drunk.

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Mayoclinic.org has a list of the numerous symptoms that are typically seen in patients suffering from such mental illness; nervousness or being tense, trouble concentrating, feelings of weakness or just simply being tired are a few of the many. These are not dissimilar to the symptoms an individual enduring field sobriety tests may exhibit. For example, when a person is first pulled over, they may act exceptionally nervous or tense. Additionally, when the officer orders a person to do a field sobriety test such as the 9 step walk and turn they may have extreme difficulties concentrating.   Nervousness can impact a person performance on the nine step walk and turn; you can read about the clues that officers look for when administering a nine step walk and turn on my website.

Back in November of 2016, Massachusetts voters ultimately voiced their opinion and voted for the legalization of recreational marijuana. Supporters of such legalization have argued that the new law would take marijuana out of the ‘black market’ and would be subjected to applicable tax; marijuana would produce tax dollars for the state and would employ hundreds of local citizens. However, as recreational marijuana is a complex and hot topic circulating around Massachusetts, the Senate has declared that the law itself needs to be clarified and refined. Ultimately, this means changes, and supporters of its legalization are not on board with this.

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Fox 25 news reported that Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, on addressing the voters who voiced their support for the legalization, mentioned that advocates should been prepared for such changes to happen. As of now, there is a 6-month delay for anyone attempting to open recreational marijuana stores for consumers. However, the legislature has been pondering many other changes, including but not limited to raising the legal age from 21 for possession, purchase and use, an increase on the marijuana tax rate, as well as lowering the amount of plants that can be grown in any given household.

In relation to the push for an increased tax rate, legislators argue that the current proposed law is simply too low and will more than likely not be enough to even cover regulatory costs. As of right now the maximum (and total) tax rate proposed is 12%. Other states where legalized recreational marijuana has made waves has tax rates as high as 37% (Washington) and 29% (Colorado). The hesitancy to allow home growers to have up 12 plants produces fear for the legislature, as they believe the more plants a person is able to grow, the more likely they will sell their products to consumers illegally.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard oral argument in the case of Commonwealth v. Thomas Gerhardt raising the issue of whether field sobriety tests should be admissible for an OUI marijuana arrest.

While it is difficulty to predict how judges will decide from questions, here are my thoughts.

The Justice stated that it would be improper with an objection for an officer to testify that a defendant passed or failed field sobriety tests in an OUI alcohol or marijuana case.  It appeared as though the Justice seemed to think that because an officer can testify that someone stumbled getting out of the car, that it is not significantly different to say that the individual could not follow instructions on a field sobriety test.

Can tattoos be consider evidence of a crime the same as if a person makes a confession to the police?  As a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, I would expect the judge to say that the tattoos cannot be admitted into evidence; however, this issue is before the Superior Court judge presiding over the Aaron Hernandez trial.

Hernandez’s defense lawyers correctly argued that it would be unfairly prejudicial and speculative to allow the jury to infer the reasons why Hernandez may have his tattoos and attempt to infer intent.

Aaron Hernandez now spends his time behind bars serving a life sentence for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. Additionally, he has been charged and is awaiting trial for the double homicide of Daniel de Abreau and Safiro Furtado. It is known that Hernandez has many tattoos on his body, and during a recent motion hearing prosecutors mentioned the potential link between the tattoos and the crimes that were committed- noting that the tattoos are “trophies of his killings”.

john-adams-courthouse-1-300x225On January 6, 2017 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Commonwealth v. Thomas Gerhardt. This case raises the issue of whether field sobriety tests, which are routinely used to determine whether someone is under the influence of alcohol, can additionally be used to be determine if someone is driving under the influence of marijuana. Field sobriety tests have been studied extensively with relation to alcohol, and they are accepted as being proper evidence in the prosecution of driving under the influence of alcohol. However, the field sobriety tests have never been studied with regards to whether or not they can help determine if a person is impaired by marijuana.  Attorney DelSignore filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of the National DUI College, an organization he has been a member of since 2007.

A judge in the district court ruled that these tests are inadmissible because they are unreliable and do not have any scientific support behind them. The judge concluded that whether someone passes or fails a nine step walk and turn or a one-leg stand does not help a jury determine whether the defendant is under the influence of marijuana. The Government argued that these tests do in fact have relevance because a persons reduced balance and the ability to follow instructions is a correlated with impairment by marijuana just as it is for alcohol.

DUI arrests on New Year’s Eve are often the result of polcie officers looking to make arrests; often police departments will receive extra grant money for New Year’s Eve.   Some of those arrest will be drinking socially and not under the influence, but arrested anyway and will have to go through the process of fighting the charge in court.  As a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer who handles these cases everyday, I will be available on the New Years Day and the 2nd to help answer your questions.  Many of these cases can be defended in court, you just need to understand the process.

With New Years Eve quickly approaching, many people are scrambling to find celebratory plans for the upcoming weekend. With New Year’s Eve  falling on a Saturday this year, local bars and restaurants are likely to be jam-packed for the night, and many people will fail to take into account their means of getting to and from these establishments.

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The NIAAA (The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) has recognized that 40% of traffic-related deaths occur between Christmas and New Years by drunk drivers, and New Years Eve itself has been cited as being the day with the most arrests made by law enforcement agencies across the country. Additionally, Triple AAA has reported that nearly 90 million Americans will hit the roads between Christmas and New Years, further exemplifying the fact that the roads are a dangerous place to be this time of year. For a better understanding of Massachusetts statistic’s regarding DUI arrests, view the Mass DUI Statistics webpage here.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral argument tomorrow on the issue of whether the Valor Act permits a dismissal of an OUI charge over the prosecutor’s objection.  The case that raised this issue is Commonwealth v. Joel Morgan, which was originally  charged out of the Lowell District Court.

The Valor Act allows for pretrial diversion of any individual who has served in the military and has been in at least one day of actual combat. To qualify for a diversion under the Valor Act, the individual most not have any prior record and must get a recommendation from a treatment provider that they would benefit from the treatment.  The diversion is available for any type of criminal charge but has come up must recently regarding OUI offenses.  The Morgan raises two questions both in the context of a second offense; however, the Court’s reasoning is likely to apply to a first offense.

  • Can a Judge enter a CWOF on a second offense OUI?

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will review a decision from Judge DeAngelo out of the Worcester District Court holding that field sobriety tests are unreliable when attempting to determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana. The case was argued once before at the SJC as Judge DeAngelo initially reported the question to the court without making a decision. The SJC remanded it to him for an evidentiary hearing. After that hearing he made the following finding in an extremely well reasoned opinion.  As a Massachusetts OUI Lawyer, I expect the SJC will affirm Judge DeAngelo’s decision and hope that this case will be followed nationally by other courts addressing this issue.

Judge DeAngelo questions that the SJC requested that he answered; here is a summary of his findings.

First, he found that there is a correlation between marijuana use and impaired driving.  Despite this correlation, he found that there was no credible evidence as to what physical characteristics permit an inference that an individual is impaired while driving.  He found 4 physical characteristics common to positive marijuana use.

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